Fair housing laws, first enacted in the 1960s by President Johnson, protect minority or underrepresented groups from discrimination in renting or buying housing. As a property manager, it is important to familiarize yourself with these laws to avoid any violations or liability. Fair housing claims can be expensive and damaging to your reputation. Here are some ways to ensure you’re on the right side of Fair Housing laws.
Make Sure Your Marketing Doesn’t Discriminate
The first thing you can do is to make sure on all advertisements, websites, or other public-facing documents that you add the language of the law in a visible place: “This community does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status.” That way you clearly show your awareness and support of the law. In order to follow the law within the actual text of your advertisements, be sure to avoid phrases like “great for a young couple” or “family-oriented neighborhood”. Although these may be true, it can be seen as discriminating against single people or those without children. Words such as “safe” or “exclusive” can also imply that you will not rent to certain groups. Instead, stick to describing objective things about the property or neighborhood, while avoiding any implication regarding the kind of tenant to whom you are looking to rent.
Once you have a potential renter coming to visit the property, you also need to be careful that you don’t engage in “steering.” Steering involves guiding a renter to a specific area of the property for discriminatory reasons. Although there may be cases in which you would want to direct a renter for reasons entirely legitimate and non-discriminatory, it is best to avoid these practices altogether and show all of the property with an unbiased viewpoint. For example, even pointing out to a couple that a lot of children live in this area around their child’s age can be seen as discriminatory. Never disclose anything about who lives in the community. As with advertisements, stick with objective facts about the property. Let the property speak for itself and let the potential renter make the decisions about the units they want to see.
Read Up on the Rules
Beyond these simple ways to avoid violating Fair Housing Laws, you should visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website to learn more and to contact your local office to ask questions that may pertain specifically to your properties.