I am a Housing Provider

This section is tailored for housing providers. It includes general fair housing information, guidance and tips for housing providers to meet your Fair Housing Act obligations, and information on what you can do if a fair housing complaint is filed against you.

 

Links to more information are available by clicking on the tabs above.

 

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Table of Contents

  1. Tips for Housing Providers
  2. How to Handle a Fair Housing Complaint
  3. Limited English Proficiency Tips
  4. Fair Housing Outline
  5. HUD Fair Housing Enforcement - Occupancy Standards
  6. Fair Housing Advertising
  7. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  8. Intermountain Fair Housing Council
  9. Idaho Fair Housing Forum

Tips for Housing Providers

Best Practices To Avoid Fair Housing Act Violations

  1. Keep detailed and meticulous records
     
  2. Adopt and use the Fair Housing Act’s Equal Housing Opportunity Logo and nondiscrimination statement:  “(name of company) does not discriminate based on ancestry, race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, or military status.”
     
  3. When advertising, market the property and its amenities rather than placing an ad that seeks to appeal to or attract a certain type of tenant.
    1. Example 1 (good ad):  3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment, 950 square feet with beautiful view of the lake. 
    2. Example 2 (bad ad): Great apartment available in a very quiet neighborhood within walking distance of ABC Church.  Applicants must have proof of employment.
  4. When screening applicants, it is best to have a standard, written procedure in place for how applications are screened.  Keep records of all applicants.  Avoid asking personal questions regarding behavior, disabilities, health, etc. Questions regarding evictions, bankruptcy history, prior landlord relationships, or prior judgments are fine.
    1. Best defense to a claim of discrimination is to be able to point to a written policy and show that you have applied it uniformly to all applicants.
  5. To avoid “steering,” when showing properties to prospective tenants/purchasers, do not suggest certain types of properties or mention types of people that live around a property.
    1. “Bad” example:  “Here, let me show you the building near the playground” to a tenant with children. 
    2. Instead – offer to show the tenant/purchaser all the available properties and allow the tenant to offer to skip properties he has no interest in seeing.
  6. Use a standard lease with the same terms and rules for all tenants.
    1. Avoid lease terms aimed at particular groups – e.g., “The West pool is for adults only”
  7. When doing an eviction or termination, avoid the appearance of discrimination by:
    1. Clearly documenting the reason for termination of the lease, and
    2. Providing a statement of the reason for the termination to the tenant, especially when requested.
  8. When you receive a reasonable accommodation request, if you feel there are barriers to you being able to do the tenant’s request, do not just ignore or deny the RA, rather, make an offer for an alternate accommodation that would still meet the tenant’s stated needs but not cause an undue burden on, you, the provider.
     
  9. For further assistance, you can call the Idaho Legal Aid Fair Housing hotline at 1-866-345-0106
     
  10. Make sure you have up to date information regarding Fair Housing laws and guidance by visiting:
    1. www.hud.gov
    2. www.idaholegalaid.org

 

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

 

How to Handle a Fair Housing Complaint

  • If you have an attorney, notify your attorney of the complaint.
  • Collect and review the documents pertinent to the complaint and make a list of potential witnesses to the incident in question.
    • It is a good idea to keep records on all prospective, current, and past residents.  You should also have a written screening policy and documentation showing that policy is uniformly and consistently applied to each applicant.
  • Weigh the merits of the complaint based on your or your attorney’s review of the facts and relevant law
  • Ensure that you respond to the complaint, in writing, within the time period specified.
    • If you need additional time, contact U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to request more time to respond.
  • Respond to conciliation offers in a timely manner:  You can choose to either accept the offer, make a counter-offer, or reject the offer.
  • Keep in mind that the investigator is impartial and best results are achieved by being cooperative with the investigator.
  • HUD may make a formal request for additional information – respond to such requests fully and in a timely manner.
    • Do not withhold information, as HUD has the authority to subpoena to obtain information, if needed
    • Provide the investigator with contact information for additional witnesses if you know of other persons with knowledge relevant to the complaint. 
  • The case will be resolved in one of three ways:
    • Conciliation agreement.  Make sure you comply with the terms of the agreement.
    • If HUD finds "no reasonable cause," the complaint will be dismissed.
    • If HUD finds reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has taken place, HUD will issue a charge of discrimination and schedule a hearing before a HUD administrative law judge (ALJ).
      • Either party may elect to proceed in federal court.
  • After the case is closed, you have the right to obtain a copy of HUD’s report, usually at your own expense.
  • Know your rights during an investigation:  To have your designated legal representative present; to be provided a fair, unbiased, and timely investigation; to be kept informed; and to be offered a conciliatory process.

 

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

 

Limited English Proficiency Tips

  1. Know whether Title VI’s limited English proficiency (LEP) requirements apply to your business or agency.
    1. Title VI requires that persons with limited English proficiency must be able to effectively participate in or benefit from federally assisted programs and activities.
    2. All recipients of federal financial assistance from HUD must comply with Title VI LEP requirements.
      1. Financial assistance includes grants, training, equipment, and other assistance.
      2. Examples of who must provide LEP access:  state and local governments, public housing agencies, assisted housing providers, Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership Program recipients.
  2. Have a plan for identifying LEP persons.
    1. LEP persons are defined as:  Persons who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.
    2. One good option for identifying LEP persons is through using “I Speak” cards, which allow a person to point to the language they speak.
      1. These cards are available through the Department of Justice at www.justice.gov/crt/about/cor/Pubs/ISpeakCards.pdf
  3. Perform a Four Factor Analysis:
    1. The number or proportion of LEP persons eligible for your services.
    2. Frequency with which LEP persons come in contact with your program/office.
    3. Nature and importance of the program, activity, or service you provide.
      1. Services such as housing, food, education, health care and other basic needs will have high importance and therefore greater need for LEP access.
    4. Your available resources and costs.
  4. Find competent interpreters.
    1. A competent interpreter: is able to communicate effectively in both English and the other language, knows specialized terms in both languages, will follow confidentiality rules to the same extent as employees, will understand their role as interpreter.
    2. Options: Hire bilingual staff, hire interpreters on a contract basis, use a language line telephone service, use volunteer interpreters (but must be competent), allow LEP person to use a friend or family member if they so choose (may not be appropriate in some situations such as where sensitive, confidential, or embarrassing information would be revealed).
  5. Translate vital documents.
    1. If a language group is frequently encountered (e.g.,Spanish in the Boise area), then vital and widely used documents must be translated.
      1. Examples of vital documents:  written notices of rights, hearing notices, notices of eviction, leases and tenant rules, applications for services, consent forms.
    2. Use a competent translator and ideally, have a second translator check the translation.
    3. Translation Safe Harbor = “strong evidence of compliance”:  If you provide written translations of vital documents for each language group that constitutes 5% or 1,000 (whichever is less) of the population of persons eligible for your services; and you provide oral interpretation free of cost for persons in a language group that is 5% of the population of persons eligible for your services but fewer than 50 people. 
  6. Develop an LEP Plan – an implementation plan to address the needs of LEP populations identified in the four-factor analysis.  Either a written plan, or some other way to document your strategy for providing LEP access.
     
  7. Make sure your staff receive training on your LEP policies and on how to work with interpreters.
     
  8. Provide notice to LEP persons that LEP access is available:  signs, outreach, phone messages.
     
  9. Monitor and update your LEP Plan to assess changes in population, new vital documents, whether you are meeting LEP persons’ needs, and whether new staff have been adequately trained.

 

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

Fair Housing Outline

Fair Housing Act

a.       The Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of housing.  It prohibits any discrimination that is based on a person’s: Race, Color, Sex, Religion, National Origin, Disability, or Familial Status.  These are called “the protected classes.”

b.      The purpose of the FHA is to allow everyone in the community freedom to choose where they live. 

c.       The Federal Fair Housing Act applies to any provider with 4 or more properties and is enforced by the US Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

d.      The State of Idaho’s fair housing laws prohibits discrimination based on Race, Color, Sex, Religion, National Origin, Disability – but not familial status.  It applies to any provider with 2 or more properties and is enforced by the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

e.       The FHA applies to “dwellings” which are defined as “any building, structure or portion of a building occupied or intended to be occupied.  Would apply to condos, duplexes, apartments, mobile homes, private homes, vacant land, homeless shelters, nursing homes, etc.

f.       The FHA prohibits a party from refusing to rent or sell to a person b/c they are in a protected class.  It prohibits discrimination in the terms or conditions of a sale or rental.  It prohibits forcing a tenant to provide information about the extent of a disability.  It prohibits refusing to make reasonable accommodations or modifications for a person with a disability.  It prohibits segregating or separating people in housing.  It prohibits steering – which is where a person is encouraged towards certain neighborhoods based on their race, familial status, color or disability.  Redlining is also prohibited – which is where a lender or bank refuses to do business for certain neighborhoods.  Finally, the FHA prohibits applying different policies, terms or conditions upon persons in protected classes.

g.      In regards to advertising, the fair housing act makes it illegal to print or publish advertisements that indicate a preference that is discriminatory.  Examples of illegal language in a rental or sale ad:  “Christian only”, “female only,” “adults only”, “near . . . Church”, “able-bodied only,” “must be employed,” “no espanol.”  One exception is that roommates may advertise for gender only. 

h.      The Fair Housing Act and Persons with Disabilities

i.      Disability is defined under the FHA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”  A major life activities is an activity of central importance to daily life, such as walking, speaking, caring for one’s self, etc.  The following are examples of conditions that could qualify as a disability under the FHA:  visual, speech, or hearing impairments, autism, cancer, diabetes, AIDS, mental illness, prior drug addiction (current users not covered).

ii.      Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications

1.      A landlord must permit a tenant with a disability to make reasonable modifications to a rental unit or common areas.  A RM is a change to the physical changes – such as building a ramp or installing grab bars in the bathroom.

2.      A landlord must permit a tenant with a disability to have a reasonable accommodation – which is an exception or change to the rules, policies, services, or regulations – such as requesting a support animal or requesting only first floor units.

3.      The tenant must provide proof of their need for the modification or accommodation by submitting a proof of need letter from a qualified professional – typically their primary care physician. 

4.      Housing providers cannot ask about the nature or severity of the disability, cannot charge additional fees or deposits, and cannot deny the request if it is reasonable and proof of necessity is presented.

i.        Fair Housing Act Complaints

 i.      If a member of a protected class has been discriminated against in obtaining or using their housing, a fair housing complaint can be filed.  Examples of discriminatory acts:  refusal to rent to a person in a protected class, refusing a RA or RM request, harassment of a person in a protected class, applying different policies or charges to a person in a protected class.  FHA complaints can be filed with HUD by going to www. Hud.gov or calling 1-800-669-9777 or by calling Intermountain Fair Housing Council at 334-2873.  Violations of Idaho’s state fair housing laws can be filed by calling the Idaho Human Rights Commission at 334-2873.  Complaints to HUD must be filed within one year of the discrimination. 

 

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

 

HUD Fair Housing Enforcement - Occupancy Standards

Notice of Statement of Policy from Department of Housing and Urban Development on Fair Housing Enforcement and occupancy standards.

 

 

Fair Housing Advertising

Guidance from the US Dept of Housing and Urban development on fair housing advertising, including common words and phrases to avoid in placing housing advertisements.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Intermountain Fair Housing Council

(208) 383-0695 in Boise
or
1-800-717-0695 (toll-free)

 

Idaho Fair Housing Forum