What You Need to Know About Federal Fair Housing Laws
People have the right to housing, whether that's for rent or purchase. In the United States, it is illegal to discriminate against people on certain grounds, according to the Fair Housing Act. If you're a Tipton County renter or a buyer anywhere in the country, you have a right to be treated the same as other people. Here's what you need to know about your rights.
What is the Fair Housing Law?
The Fair Housing law was created in the late 1960's during the Civil Rights movement. In the mid-60's, this was the third in a series of laws that attempted to stop housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Act was created to preserve the belief that everyone has the right to rent or buy a home without being discriminated against because of their affiliation within their protected class.
Everyone has a right to borrow a mortgage, sign a lease on a home, buy a home, or live in a home without fear of discrimination. The Fair Housing Act was signed into law one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, and came at a time of great tumult in the United States.
There are seven protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.
- Race or Color
- National Origin
- Familial status
What Does This Mean?
A landlord may not refuse to rent to a person based on any of the above protected classes, and a home seller may not refuse to sell a home based on these classes either. Discrimination can be subtle or obvious, and entities that enforce this act are sensitive to all forms of discrimination. For example:
1. A landlord places an advertisement in a local paper stating that a comfortable apartment is available for rent starting at the first of the month. In the advertisement, the landlord states that people of a specific race "need not apply." This is a form of discrimination and would violate the Fair Housing Act.
2. A landlord places an advertisement in a local paper stating that a comfortable apartment is available for rent starting at the first of the month. In the advertisement, the landlord specifies that members of a local club for people of a certain religion will get a discount. This is a subtle way of showing preference for a people of a certain religion, and could also violate the Fair Housing Act.
Landlords must take care to word their advertisements carefully, and they must also take care to speak carefully in person, over the phone, and over email with potential tenants.
Discrimination can happen when a person is trying to get a mortgage, sign a lease on a home or purchase a home. The Fair Housing Act prevents much of this discrimination from occurring.
Who is Responsible for Enforcing These Laws?
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for enforcing the Fair Housing Act. Any individual who feels that their rights have been violated can file a discrimination claim with HUD. Compliance officers with HUD investigate claims and take action when it is warranted.
HUD also employs people to apply for housing and investigate whether a landlord is using discriminatory tactics to find potential tenants. If their investigations uncover discrimination, HUD may take action in a variety of ways.
In some cases, some groups are exempt from following the Fair Housing Act. These groups include:
- Single-family homes owned by a landlord who does not advertise or use a real estate broker, provided that the landlord owns no more than three rental homes at one time.
- Owner-occupied buildings with less than five rental units.
- Some types of housing operated by private clubs and religious organizations that only provide occupancy to their members.
- Certain types of housing reserved exclusively for senior citizens.
However, some state laws may restrict exemptions, so landlords must often work with an attorney to ensure that they are compliant with all applicable laws and rules. Anyone who believes that their rights are being violated can contact HUD to have the matter investigated.
Looking For a Home? Work With a Real Estate Professional
If you're a home buyer seeking a home to purchase, work with a real estate professional. Your real estate agent can help you find a home in the area where you would like to buy.
More importantly, real estate agents understand buyer rights and responsibilities, and can help the home buying experience go smoothly. If your rights are infringed upon during the home buying experience, your real estate agent will be able to recognize this problem and help you take the next steps. For more information, contact a real estate professional today.