Navigating State-Specific Fair Housing Laws
The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects renters, buyers, and sellers from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The law protects citizens when they are buying or renting a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or participating in any other housing activities.
However, the Fair Housing Act does not protect against discrimination based on age, creed, marital status, military status, sexual orientation, source of income, or a myriad of other reasons. That’s where individual states have stepped in to protect groups not specified by the federal regulations.
As a property manager, you’re probably familiar with the Fair Housing Act and its statutes. But do you know your state-specific fair housing laws? Violating either federal or state fair housing requirements can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, reparations, and fines.
Property owners can protect themselves against fair housing violations by knowing the laws themselves, then educating property managers and staff about discrimination laws, particularly those specific to your state. Property owners can further protect themselves by hiring a third-party expert to ensure compliance with all fair housing laws.
State-Specific Fair Housing Laws
In addition to the federal protections covered under the Fair Housing Act, many states provide additional protections for those renting, buying, or selling a home. More states are updating fair housing laws all the time, and this list is not to be considered comprehensive. For the most up-to-date regulations, check with your state’s housing authority.
Below are some of the most popular state-specific fair housing protections:
Only 21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.
Gender Identity and Gender Expression
Protections for transgender or gender non-conforming people have been included under state fair housing protections in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.
Many states have made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their marital status. While the federal law protects against discrimination based on “familial status,” those protections only extend to people with children under the age of 18 or pregnant women. Unmarried couples or single tenants are not explicitly protected under the federal Fair Housing Act.
The following states have made it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their marital status: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.
Discrimination based on age can affect many Americans. Some experience discrimination because they are perceived as too young, while others are viewed as too old. Federal laws do not prohibit housing discrimination based on an applicant’s age, but state housing regulations make it illegal in the following places: Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois (for those over 40), Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia (for those 55 and over), Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.
Several states also offer protection from discrimination based on ancestry, genetic factors, medical conditions, source of income, citizenship status, military history, and arbitrary factors as determined illegal by the state.
Stay Protected from Fair Housing Violations
As a property owner, you could be responsible for fair housing violations, even if the discrimination was unintentional by your property managers or staff. Lawsuits could cost tens of thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and reparations.
How can you be sure your property management team is following state-specific fair housing regulations? How can you protect your investments?
We can help.
At Designated Broker Solutions, our brokers hold licenses in 27 states, with more being added regularly. We have taken hundreds of state-specific education courses and know the fair housing regulations for your location, and we will work with your property manager to ensure complete compliance. Our brokers will conduct internal audits to make sure your property is following all applicable state regulations. We will also keep you and your property management team updated on changing rules as they arise. We will even coordinate with your marketing team to make sure your website and marketing materials follow all fair housing requirements.
Protect your assets. Stay compliant. Contact us today to learn how Designated Broker Solutions can work with you to keep everything running smoothly.