A Landlord's Guide to Fair-Housing Rules

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 10, 2004 | Go to article overview
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A Landlord's Guide to Fair-Housing Rules


Byline: M. Anthony Carr, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A recent housing-discrimination case from Texas reminded me that there are still

landlords and investors who just don't get fair-housing laws.

Here are the rules in a nutshell: You must offer your property to anyone who has the financial wherewithal and credit rating to afford the rental payments regardless of these seven characteristics: race, color, nationality, sex, religion, familial status and handicap.

Johnny Brown is a subject of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development action charging discrimination against Bennie Rogers, who wanted to rent a unit at Mr. Brown's building.

In short, the complaint says a leasing agent told Mr. Rogers, who is black, "Johnny Brown does not rent to coloreds."

Mr. Rogers reported this to HUD, and Mr. Brown is now defending a Fair Housing Act complaint.

A HUD investigation into the complaint found that Mr. Brown had rented to only one person of color 10 years earlier and that the person was part of a biracial couple.

Each month, I teach a fair-housing class. Periodically, a student will approach the front and try to finagle his way around this law.

"But what if the landlord just doesn't like the way the tenant sounds or looks?" the question goes. "Doesn't he need to feel comfortable about who he's renting to?"

Of course, the landlord needs to feel comfortable with the people he's renting to - so long as his comfort level has nothing to do with race, color, nationality, sex, religion, familial status or handicap.

A landlord's investigation of a tenant should include all financial aspects of his background, and this can be done by hiring a competent Realtor or property management company.

If you need help understanding who's covered by the Fair Housing Act, visit www.hud.gov and click Fair Housing on the left side of the page.

In the meantime, let's get this straight. Here's what's meant by "protected classes":

* Race.

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