The Fair Housing Act: What Landlords Need To Know

The Fair Housing Act isn’t perfect, but it’s trying to right some wrongs that have never been more relevant. The most recent data shows that tenants made 31,202 complaints about discriminatory housing in 2018—the highest number yet. Hate crimes also increased by 14.7 percent in 2018.

What landlords need to know about the Fair Housing Act is that there are many forms of discrimination and that they have to be extremely careful not to even appear biased against tenants. It may sound like all it would require is some common sense and decency, but some violations of the act are subtler than that. For example, you may not even realize you’re using language that could be interpreted as discrimination. If it seems natural to ask newly married potential tenants, “So, are you planning to have kids?”, you would be wrong. Whatever your intentions, it could indicate discrimination against families.

The Federal Fair Housing Act was signed into law on April 11, 1968—days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was passed in an effort to prevent discrimination and to reverse housing segregation. Every landlord must be familiar with the act, or they could be headed for a lawsuit.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • Disability

But that’s not all landlords need to know about the Fair Housing Act. As of 2020, 21 states also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, you can’t open yourself up to allegations of bias in your advertisements or lease agreements. The best way to make sure you’re in compliance is to stay away from words such as “no” or “only,” unless you’re talking about smoking and drugs.

It’s also important to be aware that, as a landlord, you are responsible for any Fair Housing Act violations that anyone acting on your behalf commits, too. Federal, state, and local fair housing laws can vary, so check them all.

If you have questions or aren’t sure how to navigate the legalities, a good management company is your best source for the specifics. If you’re looking for property management in Orlando and the surrounding areas, R. Russell Properties can make sure you’re on the right side of the Fair Housing Act. Through the last four decades, we’ve come to know Florida law backwards and forwards, and we have valuable tips on avoiding even a hint of prejudice. Contact us for more information about how we can help.