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The latest regulatory actions impacting the property management industry

Issue
01

Could you be responsible for FHA violations?

Cases involving FHA violation can be costly and time consuming. Test your compliance knowledge to see if you might be making the same mistakes these property managers did.

True or False?

Denying housing to applicants based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation can be a violation of the FHA.


The US District Court in Colorado recently determined that discrimination against applicants based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation constitutes discrimination under the FHA.


Case: A family made up of two married lesbian women, one of whom is transgender, and two children was denied housing at a rental property because of their “unique relationship” and because, according to the landlord, they have “kept a low profile” and “want to continue it” that way.


Outcome: The court ruled in favor of the couple, finding that denial of their application based on failure to conform to gender stereotypes constituted discrimination based on gender under the FHA. However, the court declined to specifically find that discrimination based on gender identity is sex discrimination under the FHA, mainly due to procedural reasons.


Action Items

Make sure written policies advise employees not to treat applicants or tenants any differently based on gender identity or sexual orientation.


Train all employees, particularly leasing agents, how to avoid discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation. This includes educating them on potential scenarios in which they might discriminate unknowingly.


 

 

 

True or False?

Assistance animals are considered pets when it comes to rental agreements.


The US District Court in Colorado recently determined that discrimination against applicants based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation constitutes discrimination under the FHA.


Case: The landlords of an Oklahoma rental home recently denied the request of a tenant, a mentally disabled combat veteran, to waive the $250 pet fee for the tenant’s assistance animal.


Outcome: HUD charged the landlords with violating the FHA by denying the reasonable accommodation request of the disabled tenant. The case will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects for it to be heard in federal district court.

Action Items

Include a section specifically addressing assistance animals in all written policies. The section should clearly state assistance animals are not pets and are therefore not subject to pet fees and policies.


Train and test employees on using different procedures for pets versus assistance animals.


 

 

 

 

True or False?

A rental property may prohibit children from living there, as long as the policy is applied consistently to all tenants and applicants.


The FHA makes it unlawful to discriminate against families with children, including denying or limiting housing to families because they have children under the age of 18, making discriminatory statements, and imposing rules or policies that discriminate against families with children.

 


Case: A property company in Kansas recently terminated a resident’s lease when she asked if her grandchild, whom she had recently obtained custody of, could be added to the lease. The property manager allegedly told the resident that the owner “doesn’t want kids on the property.”


Outcome: 
HUD charged the property owners, operator, and office manager with violating the FHA.


Action Items

State in written policies that it is not possible to lawfully ensure a child-free property and that employees should not, through action or comment, convey the desire for one.


Inform all employees of the above facts and train them to avoid imposing any limitations on children in their leasing procedures as well as in any behavioral regulations they impose on tenants.


The FHA requires that pet fees be waived for persons with disabilities using assistance animals.

Proposed 2018 Budget

The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2018 spending blueprint for discretionary programs at several agencies, including HUD. The budget requests $40.7 billion in gross discretionary funding for HUD, a $6.2 billion or 13.2% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. Speci cally, the President’s 2018 Budget:


Provides over $35 billion for HUD’s rental assistance programs.


Eliminates funding for the Community Development Block Grant program.


Eliminates funding for a number of lower priority programs, including the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program.


Provides $130 million, an increase of $20 million over the 2017 annualized CR level, for the mitigation of lead-based paint and other hazards in low- income homes, especially those in which children reside.


Supports homeownership through provision of Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance programs.


Trump’s proposed 2018 budget calls for a 13.2% decrease in HUD discretionary spending.

Smoke-Free Rule

HUD issued guidance on instituting and enforcing smoke-free public housing policies (“The Smoke-Free Rule”):


Applies to all public housing units (low-income housing, such as community facilities, public housing of ces, day care centers, and laundry rooms) except for “Section 8” housing.


Public housing agencies (PHAs) will have 18 months to implement smoke- free policies that bar the use of prohibited tobacco products in all public housing living units, interior common areas and outdoor areas within 25 feet of public housing and administrative of ce buildings.


The Rule does not prohibit smoking by residents, but rather requires that residents who smoke do so at least 25 feet away from the buildings.


The civil penalty for a first-time FHA violation is $19,787.

Legislative Watch

Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA) introduced the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017, which seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity as special protected classes under the FHA.


Congress woman Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) introduced the Landlord Accountability Act of 2017, which would ban landlord discrimination based on a potential tenant’s possession/use of a Section 8 (housing assistance) voucher.

Suggested Reading

Seattle is trying a radical new approach to ending housing discrimination with a law that says landlords have to rent to the  first qualified applicants.

Read More


A federal district court judge in Colorado concluded that the FHA prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Read More


A woman abused by her boyfriend sued the City for evicting her as a nuisance.

Read More