Jeffrey S. Bennett, Attorney at Law
Warren Allen, LLP
A Historical Perspective
For many years, landlords and tenants alike have been asking for Leases that provide long term stability and predictable expectations. When compared to month-to-month tenancies or commonly used fixed term Leases (e.g., one or two year Leases), long term Leases fulfill those objectives while providing the parties with some much desired peace of mind.
Long term Leases have been in use in California and other states for many years. More recently, a small handful of Oregon park owners began offering long term leasing opportunities to tenants. The reported responses to those leasing opportunities have been overwhelmingly favorable.
This month at Manufactured Housing Communities of Oregon (MHCO), we look at how to avoid fair housing trouble while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For months now, the nation has been confronting the public health emergency caused by the new coronavirus. By April, all 50 states had reported cases of COVID-19 to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), though different parts of the country experienced different levels of COVID-19 activity. According to the CDC, U.S. COVID-19 cases include:
People who were infected while traveling, before returning to the United States;
People who were infected after having close contact with someone known to be infected with the virus; and
People who were infected but don’t know how or where they were infected.
Last week we uploaded “10 rules on how to avoid fair housing claims based on familial status”. This week, let’s look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Here are 4 questions - with answers posted on MHCO.ORG.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer.
Complaints can arise from the way you advertise, show units, apply occupancy standards, and enforce community rules.
This week MHCO looks at fair housing problems that can arise when dealing with families with children. Fair housing law bans discrimination against families with children, but there’s more to it than that. You could get into fair housing trouble from the way that you advertise your property, show units, apply occupancy standards, and enforce community rules.
Eleanor sat down after making a presentation for adding fifty additional mobile home sites to the Whispering Maples Mobile Home Community she managed. Several people in the city council chambers stood up and applauded. As Eleanor waited for the roll call vote of the city council members, she thought back to all the city staff, county board of supervisors, state legislators, and city council members that had visited Whispering Maples in the recent months. The Whispering Maples residents played an important role in getting to this critical point with the city council. If the residents had not been timely in their rent and conscientious about the appearance of their mobile homes and yards… Eleanor realized that if the city council approved the 50-site addition, it will have been because of her efforts combined with the residents.
In this lesson, we focus on avoiding discrimination claims based on religion during the holidays—and all throughout the year.
You don’t have to be a “Grinch” to comply with fair housing law. The key is to celebrate the general festivity of the season without promoting a particular religion or particular religious holiday. That way, you’ll satisfy fair housing concerns by showing that your community welcomes everyone—regardless of anyone’s religious practices or beliefs.
This month, the Coach’s lesson offers fair housing basic training for anyone newly hired to work at your community. It’s simple to say that fair housing law bans housing discrimination, but there are pitfalls that sometimes lead even seasoned professionals into fair housing trouble. This lesson reviews the basics so that everyone working at your community—regardless of his or her job—understands what’s okay—and not okay—to do or say when interacting with applicants, residents, and guests at your community.
For anyone new to the rental housing industry, fair housing basic training is a must. Fair housing experts warn against allowing new hires to interact with the public until they receive at least some fair housing instruction. “Any company or employer in this industry that doesn’t give fair housing training on Day 1 is at risk,” warns fair housing expert Anne Sadovsky. That applies to all new hires, not just those in your leasing office, says Sadovsky, who recommends mandatory fair housing training on the first day on the job for everyone—including service techs, maintenance workers, landscapers, and housekeeping staff.
Fair housing law generally prohibits discrimination based on familial status, but there’s a limited exception that applies to senior housing communities that qualify as “housing for older persons.” To qualify, senior housing communities must meet strict technical requirements. Unless they satisfy those requirements, communities may not enforce “adult only” policies or impose age restrictions to keep children from living there.
The focus of this article is on federal law, but it’s important to check the law in your state governing senior housing communities. The specifics may vary, but you could draw unwanted attention from state enforcement agencies if you exclude families with children without satisfying legal requirements to qualify for the senior housing exemption.
Example: In January 2019, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a $10,000 settlement in a fair housing complaint alleging familial status discrimination against the owners of a six-unit rental community and a residential real estate brokerage firm that managed the property.
Fair housing advocates filed the complaint, alleging that the property was advertised online as an “adult complex” and included a restriction of “maximum 2 adults.” During a follow-up call, the property manager reportedly told a tester that children weren’t allowed. DFEH found that the complex wasn’t a senior citizen housing development and that there was cause to believe a violation of state fair housing law had occurred.
“In California, senior housing developments can, with some exceptions, exclude residents under 55 years of age if they have at least 35 units and meet other requirements,” DFEH Director Kevin Kish said in a statement. “All other rental properties violate the law if they categorically exclude families with minor children. By identifying such policies through testing, fair housing organizations such as Project Sentinel play an important role in ensuring that families with children have access to housing.”
In this month’s lesson, we’ll explain what the law requires to qualify for and maintain the senior housing exemption. Then we’ll offer seven rules to help avoid fair housing trouble in senior housing communities. Finally, you can take the Coach’s Quiz to see how much you’ve learned.
This week, the Coach shepherds in the dog days of summer with a lesson on disability-related requests for assistance animals focusing on the most common type—dogs. The law generally allows communities to set their own pet policies, but housing providers must grant reasonable accommodation requests to allow individuals with disabilities to keep assistance animals when necessary to allow them full use and enjoyment of their homes.
Assistance animals can go by many names—service dogs, therapy animals, emotional support animals—and there are different sets of rules on when, where, and what types of animals may be used by individuals with disabilities in various settings. For this lesson, we’ll focus on federal fair housing law—the primary law governing use of assistance animals in multifamily housing communities, and we’ll use the umbrella term—assistance animals—to cover all types of animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities.
In this lesson, the Coach explains who qualifies as an individual with a disability and when you must consider making exceptions to your pet policies as a reasonable accommodation so they may keep an assistance animal at the community. Then we’ll suggest eight rules to help you avoid the missteps that often lead to fair housing trouble.
The 2019 Oregon Legislative Session wrapped up shortly after 5:30 pm yesterday (June 30, 2019). Four significant pieces of legislation passed over the weekend impacting manufactured home communities. The four bills are summarized below. In the weeks to come MHCO will be doing extensive articles on the legislation, forms will be updated and they will be covered extensively at the MHCO Annual Conference in Eugene October 28-29th.