Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 is a federal law in the US, and its purpose is to protect the renting consumer (a buyer or renter) from discrimination by the seller or landlord. This law makes it illegal to refuse properties, or negotiate differently with any person because of that person's sex, race, age, disability, familial status, national origin, or religion. The goal of this law is to ensure that all people are treated the same when they are seeking housing.
The Fair Housing Act was the result of a civil rights campaign against housing discrimination in the United States, and was approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The fair housing act played an important part in the civil rights movement by assuring African Americans equal rights in many arenas, including housing.
The Fair Housing Act is enforced by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This act was enacted as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
Who is Protected by the Fair Housing Act?
The groups that are protected by the Fair Housing Act are
· People of a particular race or color
· People that practice a certain religion
· People of different national origins
· People with children under the age of 18 and pregnant women
· The disabled or handicapped
· People of a certain gender
What is Prohibited by the Fair Housing Act?
If someone applies to rent or buy a property in the US, the owner of the property cannot deny them or charge a different amount based on any of the above factors. They also cannot advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on any of the above listed protected categories, or falsely deny that a property is available. Finally, landlords may not set more restrictive standards for selecting tenants or refuse to rent to members of certain groups, set different terms, conditions, or privileges, such as requiring larger deposits from members of protected groups. Established tenancy cannot be terminated for a discriminatory reason per the Fair Housing Act as well.
Who Must Abide by the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act applies to landlords, real estate agents, mortgage lenders and any other party that is involved in the sale, renting or maintenance of properties.
Some specific practices that are prohibited include:
- Refusing to rent or sell housing to protected groups
- Negotiating price based on buyer or renter falling into one or more of the protected groups
- Making housing unavailable or lying about the availability of housing when a member of a protected group in inquiring
- Denying housing to protected groups
- Establishing different terms of rental agreement or sale for members of protected groups
- Providing different housing accommodations or amenities to different protected groups
- Blockbusting – a practice in which property owners are encouraged to sell their property quickly and at a lesser price due to the threat of protected groups moving into the neighborhood
- Refusing to process a mortgage loan for a member
- Setting different terms and conditions on the loan, like higher interest rates or fees
- Refusing to make information about the loan available to members of protected groups
- Discriminatory practices in property appraising
- Making discriminatory statements or advertising property in a way that indicates a preference for a person with a certain background or excluding a protected class.
Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act
There are some exemptions that exist pertaining to the Fair Housing Act. They include:
- Properties within members-only private clubs or associations
- Single-family homes that are sold or rented by the owner, not using a broker
- Owner-occupied properties with four units or less
The Fair Housing Act is an important Federal law that affects nearly all real estate transactions. It is important for sellers, lenders and landlords to have full knowledge of the law’s details and implications. Real estate consumers can protect themselves from discrimination through being aware of their rights under the act.