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The basics of the Fair Housing Act

April is Fair Housing Awareness month, which is a great time to touch on some basics of the Fair Housing Act, which can have some implications for those involved in real estate transactions. The Fair Housing Act covers a lot of residential buildings, though some single-home and smaller units that are occupied by owners are exempt. One of the major purposes of the act is to ensure that access to housing is not impeded because of someone's religion, race, ethnicity, gender, age or other such factor.

When selling or renting properties, you cannot make decisions about buyers or tenants based on demographic factors. For example, no one may refuse to grant a lease or sell a home to someone based on the person's race or handicap. You also can't set different terms because of a demographic factor or refuse to negotiate in a manner that you might with another person. Taking any action that impedes someone's access to buying or leasing a property simply because of their familial status, gender or other demographic is illegal under the act.

It's not just access to a home or apartment that is protected under the act. Mortgage providers can't deny a loan based solely on such factors either. That's not to say that landlords and mortgage providers have to provide service to everyone who applies; they are still allowed to deny based on factors such as credit, failures of background checks or income limitations, for example.

Further protections under the Fair Housing Act require accommodation for those with disabilities. If a visually impaired person qualifies to rent an apartment that normally has a no-pet policy, that person must be allowed to have a trained guide dog if applicable. If you are dealing with real estate transactions and want to ensure you are compliant with all federal laws, consider working with an attorney to vet your deals and contracts.

Source: U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, "Fair Housing-It's Your Right," accessed April 07, 2017

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