Fair Housing – Are You Covered?
The Fair Housing Act is a collection of laws put in place to prevent discrimination and establish equality for everyone. The protective measures are an important part of providing equity and access for all in housing. It is very important for tenants and property owners to understand their respective rights and responsibilities. We will cover more in future blog posts, but today we’re looking at who is covered. Believe it or not, some people are not required to comply with fair housing legislation.
Federal Level Exemptions
Single-family homes rented without the assistance of a real estate agent or advertising are exempt if the private landlord/owner does not own more than three homes at the time. Apartments of four units or less are also exempt if the owner lives in one of the units. However, even in this case, the rental advertising must still comply with the Act. Other exemptions include the rental of a single room in a home, qualified senior housing, and housing operated by religious or private organizations, if certain requirements are met.
State Fair Housing Laws
Regardless of the federal exemptions, many local and state jurisdictions have their own fair housing laws, often with additional protected classes and different exemptions. For example, California’s fair housing is worded in such a way that courts have broadly interpreted it to include almost every type of housing. Therefore, owner-occupied multifamily homes and the single-family homes exempted under the federal fair housing law are not exempt from the California law.
In Ohio, housing discrimination doesn’t just mean that you’ve been denied a rental. Discrimination also includes a landlord withholding or misrepresenting information about available housing, steering, setting higher standards of creditworthiness for minorities, or quoting different prices, terms or conditions for financing, insurance, or sale.
As you can see, some exemptions do exist; however, these laws are designed to prevent discrimination in attaining shelter—a basic human need. Doing business in a way consistent with the spirit of the law isn’t only good business, it’s also being a good citizen.