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Real Estate Basics: Knowing the Fair Housing Laws for Apartments

Landlords have varying requirements when choosing new tenants. However, there are some restrictions. When deciding to accept a tenant, landlords often use things like criminal history, credit rating, and financial status.

It’s legal for a landlord to ask for things like proof of income. However, race, gender, and disability cannot be criteria for accepting a new tenant. It’s also illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant if they do not provide this information.

Here, we will breakdown everything you need to know about fair housing laws for apartments.

What are the Fair Housing Laws for Apartments?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects tenants against discrimination. Under the Act, a landlord cannot make their decision based on race, religion, gender, familial status, disability, or ethnicity.

The FHA prohibits landlords from the following:

  • Make housing unavailable
  • Setting specific rules or privileges for individual tenants
  • Refuse to rent
  • Deny that housing is available for inspection
  • Give a person different housing services
  • Advertising that implies that the apartment is for certain people
  • Evict a tenant
  • Harass a tenant
  • Limit privileges or use of facilities
  • Assign someone a particular part of dwelling or building
  • Delay performance of repairs

Also, landlords must make accommodations for those with disabilities. Proper accommodations include giving lower-level apartment units to people in wheelchairs or installing accessible ramps or doorways.

A caveat to this will be if the landlord has an older building. If accommodations would require a total renovation to the building, it is not necessary to accommodate the tenant.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Fair Housing Act doesn’t apply to apartment buildings with four units or less.

What Happens Is There is a Fair Housing Violation?

If a tenant believes there was a violation of a Fair Housing Act, they will file a complaint with the Department of Housing Development, or HUD.

Someone from HUD will investigate the complaint and access, whether it violates the Fair Housing Act. If there is a violation, a representative from HUD or the tenant’s private lawyer will contact you.

If you don’t have a lawyer already, it’s recommended you get one before the hearing. Consulting with someone with experience defending discrimination claims is a wise suggestion. An Estate Planning Lawyer would be ideal in this situation.

If you are found guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act, the penalties can vary. Some penalties include:

  • A $16,000 fine for first-time violators and $37,500 fine if the Fair Housing Act was violated in the past
  • A fine up to $100,000 if the Justice Department is involved
  • Punitive damages may be awarded to the tenant — if evidence of malicious intent of the landlord

Avoiding an FHA Violation is Simple

As a landlord, it’s crucial to be aware of the fair housing laws for apartments and the penalties for violating them. If you need help staying clear of Fair Housing Act violations, it’s wise to seek advice from a professional.

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