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  1. FAIR HOUSING ACT TRAINING FOR LANDLORDS AND PROPERTY MANAGERSDavid Cronin Jacksonville Area Legal Aid Fair Housing Unit 126 West Adams StreetJacksonville, FL 32202(904) 356-8371 ext. 327

  2. FAIR HOUSING UNIT’S MISSION • Advocate for victims of housing discrimination • Promote fair housing education and outreach • Ensure compliance with civil rights laws

  3. Highlights of the Fair Housing Act

  4. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the Fair Housing Act) • Race • Color • Religion • Sex • Handicap (disability) • Familial status • National Origin • Federal Law • Applies to all 50 states • Prohibits housing discrimination because of:

  5. DEFINING DISCRIMINATION • Any action in which an individual or a group of individuals who are members of a protected class is treated differently than others • Result of this action denies that individual or group equal access to or benefit of a housing opportunity

  6. FHA DEFINITIONS: DISABILITY • While the laws use the word “handicap,” it’s use is no longer acceptable unless you are quoting the law • A person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; • A person with a record of such an impairment; • A person who is regarded as having such an impairment

  7. FHA DEFINITIONS: DISABILITY • Includes: • Hearing, mobility, speech, & visual impairments • Autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes • Mental retardation and emotional illness • Developmentally disabled • AIDS, AIDS related complex • Alcoholism and drug addiction* • However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others OR who is *currently addicted to illegal drugs

  8. FHA DEFINITIONS: FAMILIAL STATUS Applies to: • Persons under the age of 18 living with: • A parent or legal custodian • The designee of a parent or custodian with written permission • Pregnant women • Persons in process of securing legal custody • Does not cover • Marital status • Sexual orientation

  9. No Kids allowed HOUSING FAMILIES: EXCEPTIONS • Unless a building qualifies as 55 or 62 plus housing, it cannot discriminate against a family with a child who is under 18 years old • Familial status is exempt from 55 or 62 plus housing but all other protected categories apply

  10. FHA DEFINITIONS: 55 & OVERHOUSING • At least 80% of the occupied units are occupied by one person over age 55 • Policies and procedures are put in place and publicly displayed identifying the composition of the other 20% • Age verification procedures are in effect • Any deviation from the policies and procedures will cause loss of designation

  11. DEFINITIONS: 62 AND OVER HOUSING • All residents of the housing facility or development are aged 62 or over

  12. WHAT IS COVERED? Includes: • Sales & rentals of single-family houses or multi-family units • Mobile home parks • Vacant land for sale or lease for construction of residential housing • Mortgage lending • Design & new construction • Any other structures designed to house people

  13. WHO IS COVERED? • HUD or other Federally assisted housing providers • Private housing providers • Builders • Property management companies • Real estate agents • Owners • Homeowners associations

  14. WHO ELSE IS COVERED? • Private individuals who interfere with protected rights • State and local units of government • Lenders • Appraisers • Insurance companies • Publishers • Architects and builders

  15. WHO IS NOT COVERED? • “For Sale by Owner” • Single family homes sold or rented by the owner who does not own more than 3 single family homes at one time if no real estate agent is used and if no advertising is used • “Mrs. Murphy” • Dwellings with no more than 4 units if the owner resides in the dwelling

  16. WHO IS NOT COVERED? • Housing owned or operated by religious organizations for religious purposes (but only discrimination on the basis of religion is exempt) • Non-commercial housing by private clubs

  17. CLASSES NOT PROTECTED BY THE FHA • Gay • Lesbian • Bi-sexual • Transgender • NOTE: while these classes are not protected under the FHA, HUD has made a rule effective March 15, 2012, that these individuals will not be discriminated against in any of HUD’s core programs.

  18. WHEN THESE CLASSES CAN FALL UNDER THE FHA • Examples from HUD: • A gay man is evicted because his landlord believes he will infect other tenants with HIV/AIDS. This situation may constitute illegal disability discrimination under the FHA because the man is perceived to have a disability, HIV/AIDS. • A property manager refuses to rent an apartment to a prospective tenant who is transgender. If the housing denial is because of the prospective tenant's non-conformity with gender stereotypes, it may constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex under the FHA.

  19. FHA AND THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA) • VAWA was enacted in part to protect domestic violence victims from eviction, denial of housing, or termination of assistance on the basis of the violence perpetrated by their abusers • Victims often face discrimination because of their rental history based on the acts of their abusers • Most individuals that experience domestic violence are women and many of those women fall into a particular race or national origin • Thus, victims of domestic violence may also have a cause of action for discrimination under the FHA

  20. HOW VAWA APPLIES • Women who have experienced violence in their home by an abuser (husband, boyfriend, or stalker) cannot have this used as a basis for denial of assistance or admission to public or Section 8 tenant-based and project-based assisted housing • Threats of abuse are not considered serious or repeated violations of her lease or as “good cause” for termination • The same applies for abuse against a member of the tenant’s household or a guest or other person under the tenant’s control • VAWA does not protect women in private housing

  21. WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE UNDER VAWA? • Landlords and property managers can request certification from a tenant indicating that she is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, and that they are protected under VAWA • Forms can be obtained from HUD, but third party documents such as police reports or court records are also acceptable

  22. IT IS ILLEGAL TO: • Threaten, coerce, or interfere with anyone who is exercising a fair housing right or who is assisting someone who is exercising that right!

  23. PROHIBITED PRACTICES UNDER THE FHA: • Refuse to rent, sell or negotiate for housing • Make housing unavailable or deny dwelling • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for the sale or rental of a unit OR for eviction • Deny housing is available for sale, rental, inspection • Blockbusting • Using different qualification procedures/criteria • Deny access to a facility or service related to the sale/rental of housing

  24. IT IS ALSO ILLEGAL TO: • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation/preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability - applies to all housing otherwise exempt from the Act • Inquire into the nature or severity of a person’s disability

  25. ACCEPTABLE QUESTIONS: • What accessibility features does the individual need to make the dwelling unit or area accessible for her/him • Prior criminal record/history • Employment history • Current salary • Rental history

  26. MORE UNLAWFUL PRACTICES • Refuse to permit reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities • Refuse to make reasonable modifications for persons with disabilities • Fail to design and construct accessible/adaptable housing


  28. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION • It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodation may be necessary to afford a resident with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common area • Tenant/homeowner has the responsibility to request the accommodation from the housing provider • Request may be made by a relative or friend • If the request is reasonable, it must not be refused

  29. REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION: EXAMPLES • Allowing service animal(s)* • Assigning a parking space • Reading notices or providing notices in Braille, large print, or audio tape • Providing the rental agreement, sales agreement, and other notices in clear and simple terms • Providing a reminder at the beginning of the month that rent is due • *NOTE: Service animals are not considered pets. Fees or deposits may not be charged.

  30. WHEN IS AN ACCOMMODATION UNREASONABLE? • Request is not reasonable if it: • Imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider; OR • Fundamentally alters the nature of the housing provider’s operations • There must be an identifiable relationship or nexus • Decision should be made on a case-by-case basis • Alternative accommodation may be acceptable • Should be discussed when initial accommodation is found to be unreasonable

  31. HUD SCENARIO ON REASONABLENESS • Example: • Tenant has a mobility impairment and cannot open the dumpster, so he requests the housing provider send a member of the maintenance staff to his apartment daily to collect his trash. The housing development is a small operation and does not have the staff to provide such a service, which may make this request an undue financial or administrative burden. However, instead of just denying the request, the housing provider should discuss an alternative accommodation, such as providing an open trash bin outside the tenant’s unit which the maintenance staff can dispose of a few times per week. • Notice there is a relationship/nexus between the mobility impairment and the tenant’s ability to dispose of his trash

  32. WHAT IS A REASONABLE MODIFICATION? • A structural change made to existing premises; • Either occupied or will be occupied by a person with a disability; • In order to afford the disabled person with full enjoyment of the premises • Applies to the interior and exterior of dwelling units AND common use areas

  33. REASONABLE MODIFICATION: EXAMPLES • Widening Doorways • Allowing a ramp to be built • Allowing installation of grab bars in the bathroom • Allowing the removal of carpet from the floors of the unit • Allowing installation of a door bell flasher • Lowering kitchen cabinets to a height suitable for a person in a wheelchair

  34. WHEN SHOULD A REASONABLE MODIFICATION BE GRANTED? • There must be an identifiable relationship or nexus between the requested modification and the individual’s disability • Without this relationship, the housing provider may refuse to allow the modification

  35. HUD SCENARIOS ON NEXUS • Example 1 • Tenant has arthritis and requests to replace doorknobs with levers because her arthritis impairs her ability to grip a knob. • There is a sufficient nexus/relationship between the disability and the requested modification AND the modification is reasonable • Example 2 • Homeowner with a mobility impairment requests the HOA change his shaker shingles to clay tiles and fiberglass shingles because these shingles are more fireproof and would allow him more time to escape if there was a fire. • There is no nexus/relationship between the disability and the request AND the modification is not reasonable

  36. DUTY OF THE HOUSING PROVIDER Housing providers must: • Allow reasonable modifications to dwelling units & common use areas (at the tenant’s expense)if the modification is necessary for the disabled person to use the housing or common use area Housing providers may: • Require the tenant to pay into an escrow account the cost of restoring the unit to its original condition prior to modification if the modification will interfere with the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises

  37. RESTORATION AFTER A MODIFICATION • Escrow Account Practices • The amount requested must be reasonable and related to the necessary repair • Any interest that accrues is for the benefit of the tenant • Housing providers may only require restoration of modifications made to interiors of the dwelling unit

  38. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR COSTS? • Reasonable Accommodation • Under the FHA, the housing provider is responsible for the costs associated w/ a reasonable accommodation • Reasonable Modification • Under the FHA, the tenant is responsible for the costs associated with a reasonable modification • Maintenance • Exterior modification (common area normally maintained by the housing provider) • Usually the housing provider’s responsibility • Interior modification or one used only by the requester • The tenant is responsible

  39. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR COSTS? • Section 504 • Projects that receive Federal financial assistance • Landlord is responsible for ALL costs • Except when the change will result in an undue financial or administrative burden

  40. ACCEPTABLE QUESTIONS • A housing provider may not: • Inquire into the nature and severity of the disability • A housing provider may: • Request reliable disability-related information, unless the disability is obvious or otherwise known to the housing provider • Necessary to verify the person is covered by the FHA • Describes the need of the modification • Shows the relationship between the disability and the need • Information may be provided by • The individual herself • A reliable third party who is in the position to know • A doctor or medical professional • HOWEVER, medical records typically are not needed


  42. DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS • Applies to ALL: • Newly-constructed multi-family housing • Consisting of four or more dwelling units • Built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 • What type of units does it apply to? • ALL units in buildings with an elevator • ALL ground-floor units in buildings without an elevator • Covers: • Condos, garden apartments, dormitories, vacation timeshares, homeless shelters

  43. FHA DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS • 7 FHA Design Requirements • 1) Accessible Entrance on an Accessible Route • 2) Accessible Public and Common Use Areas • 3) Usable Doors • 4) Accessible Routes Into and Throughout the Dwelling • 5) Accessible Switches and Controls • 6) Reinforced Walls • 7) Usable Bathrooms and Kitchens

  44. 1) ACCESSIBLE ENTRANCE ON AN ACCESSIBLE ROUTE • All entrances typically used by residents for entering the building must be accessible • Office Entrance: • Must have accessible parking that connects to an accessible path • Clear, readable, high-contrast signs • Office door must have: • Low or no threshold • Clear opening no less than 32” wide • Easy to grip door handle (lever)

  45. 1) ACCESSIBLE ROUTE • Continuous and unobstructed • Connects accessible elements throughout site • Can be maneuvered by someone in a wheelchair • Must be at least 36” wide • Cannot include stairs • Connects dwelling unit to: • Public transportation • Public sidewalks • Accessible parking • Passenger loading zones

  46. 2) ACCESSIBLE COMMON USE AREAS ALL common use areas must be located along an accessible path Includes pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, community gardens, etc. Dumpster must be accessible Mailboxes must be accessible and reachable for a seated person Sidewalks must also have an accessible path leading from accessible parking

  47. 3) USABLE DOORS • Within the dwelling unit • Referred to as usable doors • 32” nominal clear opening • Must have low or no threshold • Should have lever pull handles but not required • In public and common use spaces AND primary entrance to the dwelling unit • Referred to as accessible doors • Must have a 32” nominal clear opening • Standards are more strict

  48. 4) ACCESSIBLE ROUTE THROUGHOUT UNIT • Accessible Route must be 36” wide throughout the unit • Path must: • Pass through the main entrance • Continue through all rooms • Adjoin required clear floor spaces in kitchen and bathroom fixtures • Connect w/ all secondary doors • Interior doorways must be 32” wide • Hallways must be 36” wide

  49. 5) ACCESSIBLE SWITCHES & CONTROLS Covered Items: Thermostats and other heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation mechanisms Ceiling fans Electrically operated skylights Light switches Electrical outlets

  50. SWITCHES & CONTROLS: LOCATION • Light, fan, thermostat, & other switches/controls • No higher than 48” from the finished floor; reachable if seated • Wall outlets • No lower than 15” from the finished floor • Electrical outlets over cabinets must be at least 36” from the corner • Best switches • Rocker, toggle, or touch sensitive