Every St. Louis landlord needs to stay informed about the fair housing laws. It helps in properly conducting rental procedures and prevents you from the repercussions of not abiding by the law. To carry out your rental business without any legal hassles, you need to learn about the important provisions and amendments made under the Act and make sure you follow these religiously at every stage of rental property management.
Here are a few details Saint Louis landlords should know about The Fair Housing Act.
What is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act, also known as the Civil Rights Act (VIII), was introduced by Congress in 1968 to prevent discriminatory practices in the sale, renting, purchase, and financing of housing based on race, gender, disabilities, sex, nationality, religion, familial status, and color. The significance of the Act lies in the fact that landlords, sellers, brokers, owners, and insurers can’t discriminate against the protected class, buyers, and renters.
Who Are the Protected Classes?
With the first enactment in 1968, the Act covered four protected classes: Race, Color, National Origin, and Religion. Later in 1974, sex was added as a protective class. In 1988, disability and familial status (including children under the age of 18) were also included.
Implementing The Fair Housing Laws Throughout Your Business
While running a rental business, you should strictly refrain from differentiating between the tenants and offering privilege selectively.
Advertising and Steering
Landlords should strictly avoid tenant-related descriptions and preferences in rental advertisements. You should only add property-related information such as amenities, features, and other specifications. Descriptions like ‘suitable for two people, ‘available for bachelors only’ are considered discriminatory. Steering is also prohibited while guiding renters from the protected class, meaning you can’t suggest a particular neighborhood to applicants based on their race, color, sex, and national origin.
Screening your applicants
As a St. Louis landlord, you are expected to keep your personal biases aside and conduct a transparent tenant screening process based on income, criminal background, credit score, eviction history without asking for personal details such as nationality, class information, and family background.
Under the Fair Housing Law, The Department of Housing and Urban Development considers occupancy of 2 persons per bedroom. However, this may vary based on the size and living spaces of the property.
Landlords are also prohibited from using abusive language while communicating with tenants from protected classes. You must also not harass, threaten, intimidate, or evict tenants because of their different origins or class. Even if the renters file a lawsuit against you charging discrimination, you can’t evict them without legal recourse.
Accommodation For Disabled Tenants
Under the FHA, landlords are responsible for making reasonable changes and modifications in their rental for disabled tenants. You need to provide additional facilities like installing a grab bar in the bathroom, allowing service animals on the property, installing ramps for wheelchairs, and lowering the height of the threshold at the entrance.
While the Act covers most housing, it exempts the following rental properties.
- Owner-occupied buildings with two to four units
- Single-family houses rented or sold by owners without using a broker, as long as the owner does not own more than 3 houses
- Housing is operated by religious organizations, not for commercial purposes. However, this is strictly limited to religion, and landlords still cannot discriminate based on color, race, or national origin
- Leasing apartments on behalf of a private club, not for a commercial purpose
Enforcement And Repercussions
The Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces the Act in two ways. Firstly, they hire people who pose as home buyers or renters and meet landlords or sellers in person to see if there are any discriminatory practices. Secondly, they investigate discriminatory claims or lawsuits filed by tenants and take necessary legal actions against offenders.
There are repercussions for breaking or violating the Fair Housing Act.
- The penalty for the first violation is up to $21,410.
- If you recommit the mistake in the ensuing five years, the penalty is $53,524
- For the landlords who violate the Act more than two or three times in the next seven years, they have to pay $ 107,050 as a fine.
We know that this can be overwhelming and for many landlords, it may not always be possible to stay updated about every minute detail about the Fair Housing Act. Hiring a trusted property management company like Amoso Properties can be a great help in such a scenario.
Amoso Properties is a leading property management company in St. Louis, also serving St Charles, Clayton, Ballwin, St Peters. We provide all updates about amendments to housing and renting laws to our clients and ensure that they are always on the right side of the law. For more information, contact us at Amoso Properties.