Landlords: 4 Tips to Ensure Compliance with the Fair Housing Act

One of the most significant pieces of federal civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s was the Fair Housing Act, which was signed into law in 1968. The law extended housing protections to members of seven protected classes: sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, or familial status. Many of the overt actions that the act originally intended to eliminate, such as refusing to rent to an African-American family in a previously all-white neighborhood, seem unthinkable now, but there are still thousands of Fair Housing claims filed every year. To help you comply with the Fair Housing Act, we have compiled a list of tips to help prevent you from inadvertently (or subconsciously) violating the law. 

  1. Do not institute rules that unfairly limit activities of children. Some landlords make the mistake of putting terms in leases that are especially onerous for families with children. One such term, for example, could be a prohibition on riding bicycles in and around the housing area. Most are not even aware of it when they do, but this can be considered discrimination based on familial status. Instead, you could include a provision that forbids riding bicycles on the sidewalk near the apartment building or house. 
  2. Realize that service animals are NOT pets and, therefore, not subject to pet restrictions. You probably know that it is well within your discretion to limit animals living with your tenants, but it is important to know that service animals are not considered pets. Another important note is that service animals are different from assistance animals. However, as a landlord, you must make reasonable accommodations for a tenant and his or her service (or assistance) animal. 
  3. Tread very carefully with tenants who are hoarders. Hoarding can make living spaces unsafe or, at the very least, unsanitary. However, you (and your employees) need to be aware that hoarding is a disability; this means hoarders are protected under the Fair Housing Act. This does not always mean that you cannot proceed with an eviction if your tenant is hoarding certain unsafe items, like weapons, but the situation should be approached with extreme care. It is always best to discuss a hoarding situation with a competent real estate lawyer.
  4. Above all, be consistent. One sign that landlords might not be in compliance with the Fair Housing Act is inconsistency. Asking a different set of questions for different prospective tenants can be a red flag for discriminatory practices. Different applications, lease agreements, or even advertisements can also be manifestations of Fair Housing Act violations. 

Conclusion

Not being in compliance with the Fair Housing Act can put you and your livelihood in serious jeopardy. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to confer with a knowledgeable Florida real estate attorney. The Law Office of Ray Garcia, P.A. is well-equipped to make sure you are adhering to all local, state, and federal fair housing laws. Give us a call at 305-227-4030 to see what we can do for you today.