What is Fair Housing?
Fair housing refers to the prohibition against discrimination in any activity relating to the sale or rental of dwellings, in the availability of financing or other real estate related transactions, or in the provision of housing related services.
We provide our clients with in depth seminars on Fair Housing topics including a historical perspective, a discussion of applicable laws such as federal and state Fair Housing Acts, protected classes, tenant screening and selection, marketing and advertising, resident relations, occupancy standards, people with disabilities, handling requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications, service and companion animals, domestic violence, policies and procedures, and suggestions for avoiding Fair Housing claims.
We provide legal advice regarding compliance with Fair Housing laws including developing policies and procedures to avoid Fair Housing claims, review of lease documents and marketing materials to ensure compliance with Fair Housing guidelines, and responding to requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications. We also defend landlords and property management companies against DFEH complaints, HUD complaints and Fair Housing lawsuits.
With respect to rental housing, providers may not discriminate in any activity relating to the rental of dwellings, or in the provision of services or facilities, on the basis of the following protected classes:
Federal Law Protected Classes. Race, Color, Religion (including religious dress and grooming practices), Sex (which, under California law, includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding), National Origin, Familial Status, Handicap (called “disability” under California law)(includes physical and mental disabilities such as HIV and AIDS).
Additional Protected Classes Under California Law. Marital Status, Sexual Orientation, Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression, Genetic Information, Age (40 and older), Ancestry, Source of Income, Medical Condition, Perception of disability and association with others, and Arbitrary Discrimination.
Handling Requests for Reasonable Accommodations
Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord is required to make “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford [person(s) with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” Where a resident makes a request for reasonable accommodation, and the underlying disability is not obvious or known, a landlord may request, among other things, disability-related information that is necessary to verify that the person meets the applicable definition of disability and information showing the disability-related need for the requested accommodation (i.e. that the desired accommodation will affirmatively enhance quality of life by ameliorating the effects of the disability). A landlord may deny a request for accommodation if providing the accommodation is not reasonable, if granting it would impose an undue financial burden upon the landlord, or where there is not a direct nexus between the disability and the requested accommodation.
Handling Requests for Reasonable Modifications
Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord must allow accessibility modifications to be made at the expense of the person with disabilities. A reasonable modification is an alternation to the physical characteristics of a dwelling unit or to the common areas of a building, requested by an applicant or resident, to allow accessibility by a member of the household. For properties receiving federal funds, the landlord may be required to pay for the modifications.
A request for a companion animal in an apartment that has a “no pets” policy is one of the most commonly requested accommodations. Unfortunately, there has been a growing trend of tenants seeking to characterize their pets as companion animals in an effort evade a “no pets” policy, pet fee or pet deposit. We assist our clients in analyzing these requests to ensure they comply with applicable law.
Equal Opportunity Logo, Statement or Slogan
HUD guidelines require that all advertising for the sale, rental or financing of residential housing contain an equal opportunity logotype, statement or slogan. The equal opportunity Slogan reads “Equal Housing Opportunity” or “Equal Opportunity”, depending on space available. The equal opportunity statement reads: “We are pledged to the letter and spirit of the U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” The logo is available on HUD’s website.
Federal Fair Housing Poster
All multifamily rental properties (four or more units) must display the required Fair Housing poster. This poster states the basic requirements of the law, and informs the public about where they may file a complaint. The poster should be prominently displayed so that it is readily apparent to all persons seeking housing accommodations. Generally, the poster is displayed in both the rental and leasing offices. The poster is available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The poster is 11 by 14 inches.