The primary purpose of the Fair Housing Act is to provide housing equality to every American citizen when renting out a home. This is based on the principle that every American citizen should have equal rights to seek housing opportunities and should not be discriminated against according to certain classes.
Part of the landlord-tenant laws, The Fair Housing Act must be followed by all housing providers, including sellers, landlords, lenders, financial institutions, property managers, appraisers, insurance companies, and many other providers.
These laws prevent housing providers from practicing discriminatory acts, such as imposing different pricing or limiting amenities. So, understanding these laws is critical to the success of any landlord working in Pennsylvania. This is why we at One Focus Property Management have put together the following article.
The History of the Fair Housing Act
Since the mid-1800s, there have been several attempts to impose fair housing in America. However, it was only until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that something really happened.
The first two attempts to address discrimination in housing were the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, which was established a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, created this ground-breaking legislation.
Who Are Protected by the Fair Housing Act in Pennsylvania?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against certain individuals belonging to certain protected classes or groups. In Pennsylvania, landlords and other housing providers should not discriminate against an individual based on the following factors:
- National origin
- Familial status
How the Fair Housing Act Prevents Discrimination in Housing
The classes mentioned above are protected against discrimination through the Fair Housing Act. This law prevents discrimination against these protected classes through any of the following:
When selling or Renting a Property to someone of a protected class, the homeowner cannot:
- Lie about the availability of housing
- Refuse to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing
- Deny opportunities for housing
- Provide different accommodations or amenities
- Have different terms or conditions when it comes to selling or renting a property, for example charging some a security deposit, but not others.
- Deny participation in services related to housing, such as a multiple listing service
- Blockbusting: convincing property owners to sell or rent cheaply because of the fear of these classes moving into the neighborhood
When providing mortgage lending services, the lender cannot:
- Deny an application for a mortgage loan
- Set different loans terms or conditions, like interest rates or fees
- Require different sets of documents and other requirements for the loan application
- Refuse to answer questions about the loan
- Use discriminatory practices when it comes to appraising the property
The Fair Housing Act also prohibits other behavior from housing providers, such as:
- Making discriminatory statements or marketing materials
- Excluding a protected class or indicating a preference for a person with a certain background when advertising a property
- Interfering with or threatening anyone’s fair housing rights
Exemption From the Fair Housing Act in Pennsylvania
In some cases, the following may be exempted from the Fair Housing Act:
- Members-only private clubs or organizations
- Single-family houses that are rented or sold without an agent or a broker
- Owner-occupied properties with four units or less
What Can Landlords Do to Avoid Discrimination Claims
Even though the Fair Housing laws are critical to understanding, part of this understanding is knowing how to never breach these laws:
Know the law
As a landlord, one of the most common problems that you could encounter is getting accused of being discriminatory. To ensure you remain compliant with the Fair Housing Act, you should learn and understand federal and state laws, as well as local ordinances. Make sure to treat everyone fairly and avoid being prejudiced when it comes to screening tenants.
Create a Fair Screening Process
It’s essential to be consistent in screening tenants. Make sure to establish the same qualifying standards for every applicant and let them provide the same sets of requirements.
Ask for the same information, referrals, documents, and fees, and set the same rent prices. Follow the exact same practices for each applicant who wants to rent your property.
Work with a Professional Property Manager
If you are not sure how to manage your property in accordance with the Fair Housing Act in Pennsylvania, it’s best to work with a professional and reliable property management company. You may reach out to One Focus Property Management at (570) 505.3347 for any questions about your Pennsylvania rental property.
Understanding the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Laws is incredibly important for every landlord. These are the laws that protect people from discrimination so, even if discrimination is not your intention, you need to be aware of the laws and the impact your actions can have.
If you have any further questions regarding the Fair Housing Laws or any other aspect of property management, please contact us at One Focus Property Management.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change, and this content may not be up to date at the time you read it. For expert legal advice, kindly get in touch with One Focus Property Management at (570) 505.3347. We can help you manage your rental property and handle your legal obligations.