A clear understanding of national fair housing laws is a must for anyone who manages their own rental properties. Landlords who fully self-manage their rental properties increase their chances of unintentionally running afoul of these laws. Here’s what you need to know about renting and national fair housing laws.

Federal fair housing laws cover most rental properties, but certain types of property are exempt.  These laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against people based on:

  • Race
  • Familial Status
  • Color
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Disability

When renting to individuals with a disability, the law requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for such individuals to access the property. If requested, landlords must also allow the tenant to make reasonable disability-related modifications to his or her unit.

What These Laws Forbid

It’s illegal for landlords to engage in the following behaviors because someone is a member of one of those protected groups:

  • Make their rental property unavailable
  • Have a different process to qualify for a rental
  • Charge a different amount for rent or other fees
  • Deny access to amenities or services
  • Publish or state anything that implies discrimination or preference in renting
  • Only allow them to rent units in a certain section of the building or units in a particular building
  • Remove a tenant or the tenant’s guest

Compliance Is Challenging

Reports of blatant and obvious disregard for these regulations are uncommon. Frequently, accidental violations get landlords into trouble.  For example, if the size or location of a rental inspired a landlord to advertise it as “perfect for a retired couple”, that’s problematic. The argument could be the landlord is discriminating on the basis of familial status because the ad implies families with children aren’t welcome.

Practical concerns and good intentions can also result in accidental violations. A landlord may seek to prevent noise complaints by housing all families with children in the same part of the building. The law would also view that as discrimination due to familial status.

Those are just a couple of examples. Unfortunately, there are many other ways a landlord could unintentionally fail to comply with national fair housing laws.