Carole Boster: Be aware of fair housing obligations and rights | Notice
April is National Fair Housing Month, featuring a wide range of laws including advertising, selling, leasing, financing, and brokerage services related to housing transactions. The purpose of the law is to ensure that all people can live where they can afford to live. The four protected categories in federal law generating the most complaints in 2019 were disability, 59.4%; race, 26%; monitoring of family status and reprisals, each at 10%.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits denying a person with a disability permission to make reasonable modifications to an existing rental unit (at the tenant’s expense). If the housing is federally funded, changes are the responsibility of the housing provider. Fair housing makes it illegal to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices or services that would allow a person with a disability to have equal opportunity to use housing. An âanimal freeâ policy cannot exclude a comfort, service or assistance animal if a medical need can be demonstrated.
Multi-family residential units of four or more persons with first occupation after March 13, 1991, whether funded by the private sector or the federal government, must meet the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. The law requires that all units on the first floor be accessible and adaptable for people with disabilities (not a percentage of units). If there is more than one ground floor or if there is an elevator, all units on all floors must be accessible. If the funding is federal, an additional 5% of the units must be fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Race complaints can be made if the complainant is white, black, multiracial, or because of their association with people of another race. A full range of housing available for rent or for sale should be presented to qualified housing seekers, avoiding heading to certain areas where some providers may assume that housing seekers may be more comfortable or that l location is more desirable to them.
Family status is defined as a person who has custody of another person who has not reached the age of 18, is in the process of adopting that person or a pregnant woman. Housing providers cannot refuse a housing opportunity based on the number, age or gender of those occupying a housing. The total number of occupants in the units may be based on the occupancy codes of the living area, but not on the adult / child ratio. Exceptions include federally funded housing for specific populations, such as the elderly or people with disabilities.
Retaliation complaints in housing transactions can arise from the perception that a person has reported or complained about housing situations. To file a reprisal complaint, the link with the complainant’s group must be established.
Some housing providers may mistakenly believe that not advertising in newspapers or on the Internet then circumvents fair housing laws. As part of the enforcement of fair housing complaints, advertising includes window sign, yard, social media post, flyers and minor posts, etc.
The Huntington Relations Commission is a civil rights law enforcement agency that deals with complaints of discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation on the basis of race, sex, national origin , color, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or veteran status. . The alleged violation must have occurred within the city limits of Huntington within 365 days of filing. For more information, contact Marshall Moss, General Manager, at 304-696-5540 ext 2014.
Carole Boster is a member of the Huntington Human Relations Commission and a retired senior researcher for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.