Exempting a disabled tenant’s service animal from a no-pets policy is a common kind of reasonable accommodation. But a Florida case deals with what a landlord can do when those accepted service animals create a nuisance for other tenants.
The basic rule is that landlords must make reasonable accommodations to the point of undue hardship. Most resonable accommodations cases were decided on the basis of reasonableness, including an Arizona case posing the question of whether it’s reasonable to expect a landlord to introduce a whole new service or activity for a tenant with disabilities.
Nearly half of the cases this year address a landlord’s FHA duty to make reasonable accommodations. In most of these cases, the requested accommodation was purportedly necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and public and common use areas. These cases offer insight into how far the duty to accommodate goes, including a key case out of Kentucky that sheds light on a landlord’s right to verify the requestor’s disability and need for the accommodation.
We’re all pretty familiar with what the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)says. The real challenge is figuring out what it actuallymeans, as in real life. If you useFair 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.
In a recent case, a tenant claimed she needed an emotional support animal for a mental disability and asked the homeowners association board for an exemption from the community’s no-pet policy. Since the tenant’s disability isn’t readily apparent, the landlord asked her for verification. She provided a medical note listing her diagnosis. Although the disease is an officially recognized illness, the board wanted more information about the disability and how it affects her “major life activities.” When she refused to provide the information, the landlord moved to evict her.
Did the landlord’s request for more information about the disability go too far?
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.
HUD recently announced that it has approved a Conciliation/Voluntary Compliance Agreementbetween the Housing Authority of Maricopa County, in Mesa, Ariz., and one of its residents who has a mental health disability. Under the agreement, the housing authority will pay $10,000 to the tenant and provide fair housing training for its employees who work with the public. The housing authority will also vacate the tenant’s eviction and waive the $3,516 eviction judgment that had been entered against her.
“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.
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.
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