April is National Fair Housing Month, showcasing a broad base of law including the advertising, sale, rental, financing, and brokerage services related to housing transactions. The goal of the law is to ensure all persons can live where they can afford to live. The four protected classes in federal law generating the most complaints in 2019 were disability, 59.4%; race, 26%; followed by familial status and retaliation, each at 10%.
Fair Housing law makes it illegal to refuse an individual with handicaps permission to make reasonable modifications to an existing rental unit (at tenant’s expense). If the housing is federally financed, modifications are the responsibility of the housing provider. Fair Housing makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services that would allow a person with a handicap equal opportunity to use the dwelling. A “no pet” policy cannot exclude a comfort, service, or assistive animal if medical need can be shown.
Multi-family housing units of four or more whose first occupancy is after March 13, 1991, whether privately or federally financed, must meet accessible requirements in the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. The Act requires all units on the first floor must be accessible and adaptable for persons with disabilities (not a percentage of units). If there is more than one ground floor or if there is an elevator, all units on all floors must be accessible. If federally financed, an additional 5% of units must be totally accessible to those with disabilities.
Race complaints may be filed if the complainant is white, black, multi-racial, or due to association with those of another race. A full range of available housing for rental or sale must be shown to qualified housing seekers, avoiding steering to certain areas where some providers may assume the housing seekers may be more comfortable or the location more desirable to them.
Familial status is defined as a person who has custody of another individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, is in the process of adoption of such individual, or a pregnant female. Housing providers may not deny a housing opportunity based upon the number, age, or sex of those who occupy a dwelling. Total number of occupants in units may be based upon occupancy codes of the housing area but not the ratio of adults to children. Exceptions include housing that is federally financed for specific populations, such as elderly or persons with disabilities.
Complaints of retaliation in housing transactions may result from a perception that a person has reported or complained about housing situations. To file a complaint of retaliation the nexus to the complainant’s class must be made.
Some housing providers may incorrectly believe that not advertising in newspapers or on the internet allows then to circumvent Fair Housing laws. In enforcement of Fair Housing complaints, advertising includes a sign in a window, yard, social media post, fliers, and minor publications, etc.
The Huntington Relations Commission is a civil rights law enforcement agency that processes complaints of discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of race, sex, national origin, color, religion, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, or veteran’s status. The alleged offense must have occurred in the Huntington city limits within 365 days preceding filing. For more information, contact Marshall Moss, executive director, at 304-696-5540 ext 2014.