As the calendar turns to April, it is HUD's annual Fair
Housing Month. And this time HUD opens with an aggressive public campaign with a focus on
"enforcement and education and outreach efforts and the work
of its fair housing partners." While some in the
apartment management world would argue perhaps HUD's efforts
would be better focused on education as opposed to enforcement, we
need to know that HUD's public campaign is driven by
enforcement and penalties as contrasted with outreach and
education. All too often I see HUD view management as the
opponent in fair housing matters when more likely we should be
business partners working to get it right together.
As readers of this space well know, we here at your friendly
neighborhood Fair Housing Defense blog feel
differently. Education is key. Training is
critical. That's why this month, we're making that our
focus, starting with a brief history and explanation of the Fair
Housing Act (FHA), followed by a few entries on important cases and
amendments that have shaped today's FHA.
The FHA was enacted by Congress seven days after the
assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Intended as
a follow up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the FHA initially
prohibited discrimination in connection with the sale, rental, or
financing of housing based on race, color, religion, and national
origin. Gender was added as a protected class in
1974. Disability (handicap) and familial status were added in
1988. To be sure, states and many localities also include
additional protected class (such as source of income and/or sexual
orientation) in their laws. In addition to the statute,
through the Code of Federal Regulations, HUD has put forward an
expansive set of rules and regulations that implement our FHA.
So, do we see overt acts of housing
discrimination? Sometimes. Not too often. Curiously
omitted from HUD's materials, however, are the reams of cases
which receive a No Probable Cause Dismissal as they were filed by a
disgruntled applicant, resident, or former resident who was unhappy
for one reason or another. Indeed, more likely in today's
world is that discrimination complaints arise when a well meaning
owner/manager or realtor advertises in a manner that someone claims
violates the FHA. Likewise, as evidenced by HUD's new educational photo and by many of
the questions we receive, it is becoming more common for complaints
to be filed by people who require service animals and who see that
an apartment complex does not allow pets. A service animal, of
course, is not a pet.
These latter forms of discrimination are far less obvious and
far more problematic for people in our industry. That's
why education is so important, and that's why we're
Just A Thought.
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Benjamin Osgood, of the Tenant Advocate, brings up a good point that I've noticed becoming MUCH more of an issue lately -- restoration provisions obligating the tenant to return the space to the condition in which they received it.