Fair Housing Rights
An important 1968 federal law called the Fair Housing Act (FHA) serves to protect individuals from unfair housing practices based upon their race, color, national origin, sex, family status or disability. If you feel as though your rights under the FHA have been violated, you need an attorney to help protect your interests and restore those rights. An attorney with experience in real estate law, like the skilled and caring professionals at Kenneth L. Baritz & Associates, P.C., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, can advise individuals about their rights under the FHA.
The Protections Of The Act
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for most, but not all, property owners or landlords to discriminate in rental housing. In a nutshell, the Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person or group on the basis of their race, color, national origin, or sex if that person or group makes a legitimate offer to rent a property. For example, a landlord cannot ask for a higher application fee from a potential renter based upon the renter’s race. Another protection enforced by the Act concerns family status. A landlord cannot change the amount of a security deposit required, or change the terms of a lease on a case-by-case basis, because of the status of a renter’s family.
The FHA has other important protections, including a provision making it illegal for landlords or real estate agents to lie to minorities about the availability of apartments for rent or houses for sale. The FHA prohibits a real estate agent from trying to funnel potential buyers or renters into particular neighborhoods based upon the race of a potential buyer or renter or the predominant race of that neighborhood.
In addition to protections on the basis of sex, race, national origin and family status, a landlord must also make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. This does not mean that a landlord needs to rebuild an entire apartment to accommodate a person with a disability. It means, instead, that a reasonable accommodation must be made such as installing nonslip treads in a bathtub or extending a light bulb chain to a lower length. Most properties built since 1991 that have more than four rental units need to meet very specific requirements under the FHA. The requirements of the FHA, in any matter involving a person with a disability, revolve tightly around the facts of the particular situation.
Currently, no federal law protects individuals from discrimination in rental housing on the basis of their sexual orientation. A handful of states and communities, however, do in fact have laws in place that protect gays, lesbians and transgender individuals in their right to rental housing. If you feel a landlord or property owner has discriminated you against on this basis, you may have legal rights and remedies, depending upon where you live and the circumstances of your particular case.
Remedies Under The Fair Housing Act
The remedies under the FHA vary depending upon who actually brings an action under the Act. If a private individual (as opposed to a governmental entity) brings a claim, the individual must first file a complaint within one year of the date of the alleged discrimination. If their case is proven, they may be entitled to actual damages, as well as punitive damages. In addition, the court may issue an injunction or temporary restraining order that effectively prohibits the landlord or property owner from any further action or discrimination. In addition, if a person has threatened, intimidated or physically harmed you in relation to your attempt to rent property, they may be criminally liable and can be assessed a penalty and/or be required to serve time in jail for their actions.
Speak To A Landlord-Tenant Lawyer
The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 offers a protective umbrella of rights to potential renters of property. If you feel you have been discriminated against under the Act, an attorney should be your first call for help. If you have questions about the FHA and your rights underneath it, contact an experienced real estate law attorney at Kenneth L. Baritz & Associates, P.C., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to restore and protect your rights.
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