Recently I attended a class designed to instruct Realtors® on Fair Housing Laws. I was impressed by the fact that we still have to create legislation for something that should come naturally to anyone who practices the Golden Rule. One of the presenters, a tester for the Fair Housing Alliance, shared stories about actual cases in which testers snared landlords and Realtors® who were flagrantly violating Fair Housing Laws. Most of the violators were actively discriminating against buyers/tenants because of race or sexual orientation. We’ve come a long ways in this regard, but it sounds like we still have a ways to go!
I’ve noticed that in a fish tank the different kinds of fish like to hang out in schools of their own kind, so I get it that segregation is natural to a point. But we aren’t animals or fish! We have a brain and have the ability to reason. Discrimination of this kind is over come by simple human kindness!
The idea of fair housing originated with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was added to in 1968 and has been clarified further in recent years. It is illegal to discriminate or treat someone different than others in relation to obtaining housing (purchase or tenancy) because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act also includes discrimination against those whose income is derived from public assistance.
If you are a landlord and have ever denied someone because they have children, are unmarried or you didn’t want “their kind” in your rental, you have probably violated Fair Housing Laws. If you have ever denied a tenant who has a service animal such as a seeing eye dog because your policy excludes pets of any kind, you have probably violated Fair Housing Laws.
In the purchase of a home or in the process of securing a rental, if you have received overt disparate treatment or disparate treatment compared to others of a different race, color or national origin, you probably have been a victim of illegal unfair treatment.
In a recent case an unwed single mother was illegally denied housing because the landlord wanted only stable married people in his apartment complex. The tester found that he had illegally steered her away by pointing out the busy street and that it would be unsafe for her child. The landlord was found guilty and paid a huge fine.