The Fair Housing Act is also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It’s a federal law that bans all forms of housing discrimination when it comes to sale, renting, mortgage lending, and home selling on the basis of certain protected classes.
The Fair Housing Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. The act was one of three prominent pieces of legislation passed during the Civil Rights Movement.
As a landlord, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with this act in order to avoid discriminating against prospective or current tenants in illegal ways!
The following is a basic overview of the Arizona Fair Housing Act.
What Are Protected Classes Under the Arizona Fair Housing Act?
Basically, a protected class refers to certain groups of individuals protected by anti-discrimination laws. In regards to the Fair Housing Act, protections may exist at both the federal and state level.
As Arizona is yet to pass state-specific protections, the only protections available against discrimination are those at the federal level. These are:
- National Origin
- Familial status
What Are Some Common Examples of Landlord Discrimination?
Below are some examples detailing how landlords can discriminate against renters in illegal ways per fair housing laws.
Racial discrimination still remains one of the most common forms of tenant housing discrimination.
For instance, stating in your rental ad that white tenants are preferred is discriminatory towards individuals of other races.
Religion, just like other protected classes, shouldn’t be a qualifying criterion for tenants. Whatever religion a tenant follows shouldn’t be considered as part of a housing providers tenant selection process.
It is discriminatory for landlords' property listings to state – “Christians preferred” or “a safe Christian community.”
Housing providers cannot reject a tenant's application based on their gender. Even with well-intentioned policies, a landlord may still find themself on the wrong side of the law.
Essentially, you cannot enforce policies in your lease agreement that restrict tenancy based on an person's gender identity.
Discrimination on the basis of national origin is also illegal, whether or not it is deliberate. An example of how this can occur is requiring a prospective tenant to show proof of their immigration status or proof of their citizenship.
Some landlords may not like the idea of having a person with children rent their properties due to concerns about noise or additional wear and tear on the rental property.
However, familial status is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act and, therefore, it is illegal for a landlord to turn away a prospective tenant who has or is expecting children.
The Fair Housing Act requires that a landlord treat all people equally, regardless of their skin tone. If you respond quickly to an emergency request from a white tenant in your rental but take ages to respond to one made by a Black tenant, it can be considered discriminatory. Consequently, the Black tenant may seek legal redress.
Disability is also a protected class under the Arizona Fair Housing Act. You cannot discriminate against a tenant based on a mental or physical disability.
Stating if you have wheelchair accessible housing or making reasonable accommodations for a person to eliminate identified barriers for disabled tenants is a helpful fair housing choice, especially if your property has internal stairs but no elevators.
Other Discriminatory Acts
The above aren't the only ways that housing discrimination can occur in the state of Arizona.
Other ways property owners can discriminate against renters include:
- Refusing to rent your home to a prospective tenant based on any protected class
- Charging a larger security deposit for your rental based on a tenant’s race
- Saying your rental home is unavailable when it is available to rent
- Harassing your tenant
- Saying racial and sexual slurs
- Breaking the lease without just cause
Can a Landlord Be Penalized for Violating the Fair Housing Act?
Fair Housing Act penalties are designed as a means for tenants to resolves housing discrimination complaints. They often vary based on where the discrimination suit has been filed. The penalties may include punitive fines and damages and attorney fees.
If you’re found guilty of a fair housing violation, the following are the penalties you may expect.
- Being charged by the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development
- Being held responsible for your tenant’s out-of-pocket expenses while they seek alternative housing
- Being charged for non-economic damages, such as those arising from mental anguish, humiliation, and or psychological injuries
Civil penalties depend on the prior history of violation. If you’re a first-time offender, you may be levied a penalty of up to $16,000. However, if you’re a repeat offender, then you may be fined a penalty of up to $65,000 or jailed for a maximum of 7 years.
Does the Fair Housing Act Apply to All Types of Rental Properties?
The Fair Housing Act covers most types of housing, including single-family homes, multi-family homes, condos, and even commercial properties. However, the following residential units and facilities in an urban development are exempt from this act.
This applies to a multi-family property of 2 or 4 units, in which one of the units is occupied by the owner.
The Fair Housing Act does not apply to a single-family house if the owner doesn’t own more than 3 units at one time.
Private Clubs with Memberships
These are allowed to restrict access based on their memberships so long as they don't offer housing to the general public.
If a religious organization sponsors housing, then it may be able to restrict housing access to its members as long as it doesn't discriminate in its membership policies.
In most cases, housing communities for the elderly are also exempt from Fair Housing laws.
Treating your Arizona tenant fairly and with respect is key. Not only will that boost your reputation and credibility, but it can also help prevent potential legal issues with your tenants!
For expert help in Arizona Landlord-Tenant Law, reach out to SGI Property Management! We’re a full-service property management company that manages over 500 properties in Phoenix and the surrounding areas.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to replace the services, education, or information provided by a licensed attorney. Please note that laws are subject to change and this article may not be updated at the time you read it. For more information on Fair Housing Laws please reach out to a licensed and qualified attorney.