Fair Housing

Legal Case #4: You Don’t Have to Break the Law to Accommodate a Tenant

 

A somewhat odd case out of California illustrates another important qualifier of the landlord’s duty to provide a requested accommodation.

Situation: A tenant with “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” (EHS), which causes him to be physically and neurologically affected by radiofrequency emissions from cell phone equipment, asks the city to remove a cell tower near his unit. The city refuses, noting that the tower’s placement is based on requirements of federal environmental law. So, the tenant sues the city and homeowners association for disability discrimination.

Legal Cases From 2021 & What You Need to Know - Tenant on Tenant Harassment

We’re all pretty familiar with what the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) says. The real challenge is figuring out what it actually means, as in real life. If you use Fair Housing Coach, it’s a good bet that you’re among the vast majority of landlords who are committed to principles of fair housing and try hard to comply with the rules. The problem is that those rules can be vague, confusing, and even contradictory. The only sure way to find out if you’re meeting all of the requirements is to get sued for discrimination and submit to the judgment of the investigator, court, or fair housing tribunal. Of course, that’s hardly a practical strategy; in fact, the whole point of compliance is to avoid getting embroiled in investigation and litigation in the first place.  

Luckily, there’s a better approach. Look at the actual cases involving other landlords and draw the appropriate lessons. Knowing what landlords did right and wrong enables you to make informed judgments about and improve the effectiveness of your own compliance efforts. Regrettably, you may not have the time or legal training to track down and analyze the cases—or the budget to hire an attorney to do it. The good news is that we did the heavy lifting for you. This month’s lesson breaks down the key FHA rulings from 2021, explaining not just who won and who lost, but why and what practical compliance lessons you can take from the case.

Avoiding Inadvertent Discrimination When Advertising Your Community

In today’s highly competitive rental market, effective advertising is crucial to attracting the right renters. But for these very same reasons, your advertising and marketing practices can get you into fair housing hot water. The advertising media you select and the message you craft may be illegally exclusive. While it can be direct and intentional—No children … Christian community … Not suitable for the disabled (which, regrettably, come from actual ads)—discriminatory advertising can also be far more subtle, so much so that it’s easy to cross the line without intending to.

This month’s lesson will help you keep your advertising and marketing practices within the bounds of fair housing laws. First, we’ll explain the fair housing advertising laws. Then, we’ll outline a strategy that will work for any landlord, whether its marketing consists of simple lawn signs, digital ads on social media websites, or anything in between. 

 

Fair Housing Retaliation Liability Risks  & How to Avoid Them

 

“Retaliation” is a fancy word for revenge. It’s a nasty action that you take to get back at somebody for doing something bad to you. In the context of fair housing, retaliation means an unfavorable action a landlord takes like rejecting a rental applicant or evicting a tenant because he complains about discrimination or exercises any of his other rights under discrimination laws.

 

How to Limit Liability for Tenant on Tenant Harassment

 

While the current law is unsettled, for landlords there’s much more at stake than what the law requires.

 

MHCO’s  mission is to provide landlords and other community owners with a game plan to train their managers, supervisors, leasing agents, and other representatives how to spot and steer clear of rental and management practices that can lead to liability for housing discrimination. Occasionally, however, the focus switches to training home owners themselves. Training the trainer becomes particularly imperative when the topic involves a novel, rather than a familiar, liability risk.

Such is the case with tenant harassment. “Harassment has been a compliance challenge for years,” you may be thinking. But this lesson deals with a new and emerging form of harassment that traditional fair housing training doesn’t typically address—namely, discriminatory harassment committed by one tenant against another.

Follow These 10 Rules To Avoid Fair Housing Trouble

In celebration of Fair Housing Month, 2021, MHCO is highlighting 10 essential rules to help you to comply with fair housing law.

 

Housing discrimination has been outlawed for more than 50 years, but all too often communities still find themselves on the wrong side of the law and are forced to pay out thousands—and in some cases millions—in settlements or court awards, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees to get themselves out of fair housing trouble.

 

FOLLOW THESE 10 RULES TO AVOID FAIR HOUSING TROUBLE

 

Fair Housing: How to Steer Clear of Illegal Steering

Contrary to popular belief, housing segregation remains alive and well not just in specific regions of the U.S. but across America. So concluded HUD upon completing its most recent review of the state of fair housing in the U.S. “Real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, thereby increasing their costs and restricting their housing options,” concludes the 2013 report.

How to Perform Criminal Records Checks Without Committing Discrimination

The last thing you or your residents would ever want is to have murderers, rapists, drug dealers, arsonists, and other dangerous criminals in your community. And because “criminals” aren’t among the people that fair housing laws protect, it’s okay to refuse to rent to persons who have a record of committing these crimes.

Right?

Wrong! Denying housing to a person on the basis of a criminal record potentially is a form of illegal discrimination. But since the fair housing laws don’t expressly say this, too many owners and property managers fail to recognize the existence of this liability risk, let alone take steps to manage it.

So, this month’s fair housing lesson deals with the thorny and frequently misunderstood issue of criminal record discrimination in the rental process. First, we’ll explain the legal basis for holding owners liable for a form of discrimination that the fair housing laws don’t even mention. We’ll then set out eight rules to help you carry out criminal background screening of rental applicants, regardless of whether the housing property is private, government-assisted, or public, without committing discrimination.  

 

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