Fair Housing Update

     In our politically charged society, discrimination in many forms continues to be at the forefront of the daily news cycle.  Realtors® have taken giant steps to be sure that this does not happen in our industry, including enforcing their Code of Ethics that prohibits discrimination of any kind.  Realtors® also promote Fair Housing opportunities and continually educate their own members in advocating for Fair Housing ideals.

     Realtors teach and promote that it is unethical and illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin in the sale or rental of housing, in any advertising, in financing, obtaining brokerage services or blockbusting activities.   In a recent Washington Realtors® Legal Symposium, taught by prominent Washington real estate attorneys there were some significant legal updates concerning this topic.

     1) In the case that owners find discriminatory covenants of record on their property, new rules allow them to independently record a legal document eliminating such restrictions without the ordinary legal hassle.  Usually covenants can only be changed by a tedious process within associations or whole neighborhoods to gain consensus.

     2) Landlords can no longer discriminate on the basis of source of income.  For example, if the prospective tenant is the recipient of a Section 8 housing subsidy they cannot be rejected for tenancy based on that fact.

      3) When a tenant misrepresents the status of a service animal they can now be penalized for doing so.  What constitutes a service animal has been a hot topic for most landlords, especially when a tenant claims their miniature horse is a service animal and must be allowed to live on the premises!  New rules state that in order to qualify as a legitimate service companion, the animal has to be individually trained instead of randomly chosen and declared by the tenant.  I’m not sure how you would train a python or a monitor lizard, but I suppose someone will figure that one out!

     Controversial watch dog groups such as Spokane’s Fair Housing Alliance continue to monitor Realtor® activities by sending random testers into the marketplace posing as real tenant applicants or property buyers.  When they find potential violators they log complaints against offenders and pursue that complaint until they are satisfied that the respondent is in compliance and educated or financially penalized and punitive actions taken.