What Board Members Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

Since 1968, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) has been protecting individuals from discrimination by providing equal opportunities to those who are looking to rent or buy a home, get a mortgage, receive housing assistance, or engage in any other housing-related activities.

In this guide, we’ll go over the history of the Fair Housing Act, the classes that are protected under the law, and how to ensure your association stays in compliance.

The History of the Fair Housing Act

The FHA was established in 1968 as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill for the Fair Housing Act was contentiously debated in the Senate, but with intense pressure from President Lyndon B. Johnson, it was passed quickly by the House of Representatives and Congress mere days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Establishing this act was the final impactful legislative achievement of the civil rights era.

Who Does the FHA Impact?

The U.S. Justice Department states that the Fair Housing Act applies to “individuals, corporations, associations, and others involved in the provision of housing and residential lending, including property owners, housing managers, homeowners and condominium associations, lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services.” HOAs fall under the umbrella of the FHA and should take care to comply with its obligations.

There are currently seven protected classes under the Fair Housing Act:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
  • Disability
  • Familial Status

Most housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act. But, it’s important to note that there are certain groups that may be exempt from the Fair Housing Act. In limited circumstances, the FHA exempts:

  • Single-family homes that are privately rented or sold
  • Owner-occupied homes with fewer than four units
  • Members-only organizations or private clubs

Complying with the Fair Housing Act

In order to ensure that your association complies with Fair Housing Act, you’ll want to be sure that you have a good understanding of what the FHA prohibits.

Some of the examples listed on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website include, but are not limited to:

  • Harassing persons due to race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, familial status, or national origin
  • Discouraging the purchase or rental of a dwelling
  • Threatening, coercing, intimidating, or interfering with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise the right
  • Retaliating against a person who has filed a fair housing complaint or assisted in a fair housing investigation

Click here to read some in-depth examples of housing discrimination that would be prohibited under the FHA.

The Fair Housing Act also requires that “housing providers must make reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications that may be necessary to allow persons with disabilities to enjoy their housing.” However, the Fair Housing Act isn’t the only law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities. Click here to read our article on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and learn how to ensure that your association is in compliance.

So, what can an HOA do to best comply with the FHA and avoid possible legal action? Because each case is unique and the laws related to housing discrimination are complex, it’s a good idea for association boards to meet with a lawyer about the potential need to update their rules and regulations in regard to the FHA, as well as to gain a better understanding of their state’s specific Fair Housing Act to avoid potential costly mistakes.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for imposing the Fair Housing Act. If you are a landlord seeking guidance on how to comply with the FHA, or if you are a tenant or future homebuyer who’d like to learn more about your rights, please visit HUD.gov.

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