Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing-related matters. That is, in renting, mortgage lending, home selling, and other housing-related activity. The act was created on the principle that every person in America has a right to seek housing without being discriminated against.
What Lead to the Creation of the Fair Housing Act in 1968?
One significant component of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s was the fight for fair housing rights to avoid housing discrimination. The following are important historical highlights that led to the act’s groundbreaking creation:
- Civil Rights Act of 1964 - The bill became law after President Lyndon Johnson signed it on the 2nd of July 1964. It outlawed the segregation of black people in public places and also made racial discrimination by private employers illegal.
- Lobby by Civil Rights Groups - After the Vietnam War, various civil rights groups began lobbying the government for a fair housing law to end racial discrimination toward colored veterans relocating back from war. The civil rights group included veterans groups, civil rights crusaders, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
- Open housing marches in Chicago - Two years before the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights activists undertook a series of largely peaceful protests in Chicago to end rampant discrimination that existed in both employment and housing.
- The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. - The assassination on April 4, 1968, spurred immense support for the passage of the Fair Housing Act 1968. And after a week of widespread unrest, the Fair Housing Act was finally passed by President Johnson on the 11th of April, 1968.
What Classes of People Does the Texas Fair Housing Act Protect?
The federal Fair Housing Act makes discrimination based on race, color, gender, nationality, religion, disability, and marital status illegal. Various states have also passed individual statutes adding more classes to the federal list. The Texas Fair Housing Act covers the same protected classes as the overall country's federal fair housing act.
What Are Some Examples of Violations of the Fair Housing Act?
As housing providers, landlords might violate the Fair Housing Act when providing housing services and cause housing discrimination in a variety of ways if they're not careful. The following are common examples of violations under the act:
- Not treating all your tenants equally; for example, requiring some to pay an additional security deposit, but not all.
- Ask your tenant if they are married or have kids. Avoid asking prospective tenants this when screening them, as this could be considered familial status discrimination. You can ask the prospect how many adult applicants will be living with them in the unit to abide by your limit occupancy.
- Including discriminatory statements in your rental ad. For instance, describing your property as family-friendly.
- Asking a prospect to verify their immigration or citizenship status. This would be illegal and considered a housing discrimination as it discriminates against the tenant’s nationality.
- Turning down a rental applicant for any reason other than your laid-down qualification criteria. Your tenant selection criteria should be clear, consistent, and impartial.
- Failing to handle maintenance requests properly. Your maintenance response policy should be uniform across all tenants.
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations and modifications for tenants living with a disability.
- Retaliating against your tenant for exercising their right to report discrimination matters.
What Types of Properties are Exempt from the Fair Housing Act?
Some types of properties are exempt from the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The few exemptions include:
- Housing that is operated by private or religious organizations that have limits on who can become a member
- A dwelling that has a maximum of 4 units, if the owner occupies one of the units
- Single-family homes that are rented by the owner without using an agent
Who Enforces the Fair Housing Act in Texas?
In Texas, the government agency responsible for enforcing the Fair Housing Act is the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). They work to eliminate discriminatory housing practices.
Do Disabled Tenants in Texas Have Special Privileges?
Texas defines a disability as a physical or mental condition that significantly impacts a person’s major life activity. Disability is one of the fair housing requirements under the Texas Fair Housing laws. You have two major responsibilities when it comes to renting to disabled tenants to avoid housing discrimination.
The first responsibility you have is to allow your tenant to make reasonable modifications to the unit if such modifications are necessary to make the housing livable for them. It’s your tenant’s responsibility to foot the bill. You may also require the tenant to remove the reasonable modifications and restore the property to its original condition when moving out.
The bother duty you have is to make reasonable accommodations and different housing services to your rules and policies that may provide your disabled tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. For instance, allowing a tenant with visual impairment to keep a service dog even if you have a “no pets” policy. You must make reasonable accommodations for an individual with a physical or mental disability.
How Can a Landlord Avoid Accusations of Discrimination?
To ensure compliance with the Texas anti-discrimination laws, you must ensure that you:
- Have consistent screening processes. You must make sure that your tenant selection criteria are fair for everyone. In other words, make sure that you use the same qualifying standards for everyone that applies to rent your apartment.
- Have a clear policy on how you handle repairs and maintenance requests from tenants.
- Draft proper rental ads when looking to fill vacancies. As a rule of thumb, use the opportunity to describe the property’s features rather than the kind of tenant you wish to rent to.
Have a question regarding any of these laws? If so, Rollingwood Management, Inc. can help. We’re a certified residential property management company that has been serving property owners in Austin, Texas since 1986. We can take care of your legal responsibilities, as well as provide you with help in other property management services!
Disclaimer: This post should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change frequently and this piece may not be updated at the time of your reading it. For legal help please contact a licensed attorney.