Fair housing laws have evolved since the original Fair Housing Act. The federal law prohibits discrimination against seven protected classes when it comes to housing. The Fair Housing Act was passed in April of 1968.
This law must be followed when you market your Merced rental property, screen tenants, and manage your property and your relationship throughout the tenancy. There are often updates and changes that must be followed. Disparate impact, for example, is a main concern when it comes to screening tenants for criminal backgrounds, but it wasn’t even thought of back in 1968 when the original law was written.
California fair housing laws are even stricter than the federal laws. Sometimes, there’s confusion about what owners and landlords can do and not do. It’s a touchy subject because fair housing mistakes are extremely expensive for landlords and property owners. If you’re not working with a Merced property management company that knows the law inside and out, you could be putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
Here are some of the things you need to know about fair housing and how it affects your rental property.
Federal Fair Housing Protected Classes
The federal Fair Housing Law protects the following classes of people against discrimination in rental housing. You cannot discriminate or deny housing based on:
- Skin color.
- Religion or creed.
- National origin or ancestry.
- Physical or mental disability.
- Familial status.
Landlords don’t typically discriminate on purpose. However, you can make unintentional mistakes when you’re advertising your property and screening tenants. For example, if you advertise your home as “close to churches” or “perfect for a single professional,” you may be discriminating inadvertently. You cannot approve one tenant with a credit score of 520 when you denied another tenant who had a score of 550 and claimed it was because of bad credit.
California Fair Housing vs. Federal Fair Housing
California is a little different when it comes to fair housing. The state has even more protected classes than those listed by the federal law. In California, we get into protected classes that cover sexuality, age, veteran’s status, and citizenship.
Protected classes have rights that are easy to misunderstand. For example, a tenant with a disability has the right to move into your home with a service or support animal, even if you don’t allow pets. Those Section 8 tenants who are qualified have a right to live in your home even if they get their income from a government housing program.
Service and Companion Animals
Animals become a fair housing issue when a tenant or an applicant has a service animal or a companion animal. You have to allow them, even if you don’t allow pets. That’s because fair housing laws do not see service and support animals as pets. They’re seen as accommodations. Not only are you required to accept the qualified tenants and their service or companion animals; you also cannot charge a pet fee, pet deposit, or pet rent.
Source of Income and Fair Housing
The recently passed SB329 law requires that landlords allow Section 8 tenants to apply to rent their homes. Those housing vouchers can be used as proof of income. It cannot matter how tenants make their money when they apply to live in your home. As long as they have the required income that meets your screening criteria, you must consider them.
Following fair housing laws is a lot more complex than simply making a policy of not discriminating against those protected classes. You have to have policies that reflect equal opportunity when it comes to advertising, screening, leasing, and managing your home.
We can help you stay compliant with all state and federal fair housing laws. Contact us at River Drive Properties to talk more about our process.
River Drive Properties provides effective and professional property management services in Merced and the surrounding areas including Fresno, Modesto, and Turlock. We have extensive experience with both single-family homes and multifamily properties.