While all property managers are likely (or should be) familiar with standard Fair Housing Laws, such as the prohibition of discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability, there are also a variety of rules and regulations that have been implemented in the last few years that property managers may not be familiar with. Here is a summary of those recently implemented rules and regulations:
- Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment. The maximum civil penalty for a first violation of the Fair Housing Act was $55,000. Due to inflation, this has been increased to $75,000. Subsequent violators previously faced a penalty of $110,000, which has now been increased to $150,000.
- Reasonable Accommodation for those with a disability. While not new, not everyone may be familiar with exactly what falls under the umbrella of reasonable accommodation. Currently, disability is defined by HUD as individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits life activities. These impairments can include visual and hearing impairments, cancer, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, AIDS, mental illness, drug addiction, and chronic alcoholism. These additional protections include making reasonable accommodations in current property rules and policies in order to allow the disabled person to use the housing. Reasonable accommodations can range from assigning a parking space to a resident with a mobility impairment, to making an exception to a “no pets” policy to allow a visually or hearing impaired tenant to have an assistance animal. They also include things such as removing carpeting in a unit where a resident has severe chemical sensitivity. They also include giving mentally ill tenants the ability to seek treatment prior to evicting them due to violating property rules.
- Newer buildings must abide by a different set of standards. For instance, for any buildings built after 1991 that has four or more units, kitchens and bathrooms must be able to be used by those in a wheelchair. Reinforced bathroom walls are also necessary in order to allow the future installation of grab bars. These requirements are for all 4 unit buildings that have an elevator. For buildings that do not have any elevator, these requirements extend to the ground floor units.
For more information, visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development website at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD, or contact your local and state agencies for additional information.