Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
Source of Income Discrimination
In Baltimore, the City Council is set to take up legislation that would make it illegal for property managers to discriminate against prospective residents because of how they would pay their rent. This type of discrimination is known as “source of income” discrimination, and though not prohibited under federal fair housing law, it is prohibited by some state, city, and county laws.
Source of income discrimination is often directed at people whose lawful livelihoods come from sources other than a paycheck.
Examples of lawful sources of income include:
Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security
- Veterans benefits
- Alimony or child support payments
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
What types of actions may be considered discrimination based on a source of income?
Here are some examples:
- Advertising that a person “must have a job” to rent an apartment
- Requiring documentation, such as pay stubs, that are typically only available to people who are working
- Advertisements that express limitations as to the source of income of potential residents, such as, “No Section 8” or “We do not take public assistance”
- Refusing to rent to a person who is receiving public benefits
- Setting income requirements artificially high in order to exclude applicants who receive public benefits
- Requiring co-signers or a larger security deposit because of an applicant’s source of income
If discrimination based on the source of income is prohibited in your state or locality, one of the most important things you can do to make sure you do not end up on the wrong side of a fair housing claim is to keep all employees well informed.
All staff members who come into contact with residents and prospective residents must be trained in fair housing laws.
- All staff members should refresh their fair housing knowledge at least annually and should be very clear that discrimination based on the source of income is illegal.
- Don’t forget about vendors, supplier partners and contractors! Anyone who could possibly interact with your residents should be informed of your company’s fair housing policy and asked to abide by fair housing laws.
It is important to remember that many states, cities, and municipalities have expanded fair housing protection to include additional protected classes. In addition to the source of income, these may include characteristics such as ancestry, marital status, age, military status, and student status.
Even if your area does not include some or all of these additional protections, all people should be treated fairly and equally – as a housing provider, that’s your responsibility!