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The Fair Housing Act and What You Should Know

 

What you need to know about the New England real estate and lending market.

The Fair Housing Act and What You Should Know

August 12, 2019

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was established in order to protect people who are renting or buying, applying to get a mortgage, or applying for housing assistance from discrimination.

The Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B Johnson and is enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was first established to protect against race, color, and national origin.  Discrimination due to sex was added to the Act in 1974, and discrimination due to disabilities and familial status were added in 1988.  The disabilities aspect is further broken down and outlines that discrimination due to mobility disabilities, visual disabilities, hearing disabilities and cognitive disabilities is illegal.   Property owners cannot refuse occupancy due to any type of disability, and must in fact allow or make “reasonable” accommodation and modifications to the property to allow the disabled person to use the property.  These modifications would be done at the property owner’s expense.  Some of these modifications might include adding a wheelchair ramp or widening a doorway.

Per HUD guidelines, residential properties that are for rent or sale must have the equal housing opportunity logo or a statement that alerts people that the property is available to anyone and everyone that is interested in purchasing or renting.

What type of housing is covered by the Act?

Nearly all housing is cover by the FHA.  In some circumstances, owner occupied houses with a maximum of four units may be exempt.  Housing that is rented or sold without an agent or broker, or is operated by a private “members only” club may also be exempt.

What is considered illegal discrimination in house sales and rentals?

Below are only a few actions that are not allowed based upon race, color, national origin, sex, familial status and disability:

  • Refusal to rent or sell housing
  • Set different terms or conditions for a sale or rental
  • Tell a person the property has already been sold or rented when it has not

Under the FHA, it is also illegal to discriminate in mortgage lending.  The following are examples of actions that are illegal to take based upon race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability:

  • Refusing a loan or financial assistance for a home
  • Provide loan terms with a different interest rate or fees
  • Appraising a home differently

When the FHA was signed into law, discrimination was running rampant.  The housing market was no exception.  There were attempts of complete segregation in neighborhoods and flat-out refusals to rent or sell to people that were more than qualified, but denied due to race, religion, etc.  Since the Act was put into law, discrimination in housing has certainly decreased, however according to the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), still today, there are thousands of discrimination complaints filed each year, and more than half of those are based upon disabilities. 

Anyone who thinks they are or have been discriminated against when applying for funding or trying to buyer or rent a house or apartment should speak to a lawyer or file a complaint with HUD (HUD.gov) or with the NFHA.

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