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Who Is Not Protected Under The Fair Housing Act

Ever hear of the Fair Housing Act (FHA)? If you’re in the market to buy a house, rent a property, or even if you’re already a homeowner, it’s important to understand what this law covers. While it offers broad protections, it doesn’t cover everyone. In this blog post, we will explore who isn’t protected under the Fair Housing Act – and why.

Table of Contents

Background: The Fair Housing Act and Its Purpose

The Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968 as an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion or national origin. In 1974, sex was added as a protected class. In 1988, disability status and familial status (presence of children under 18) were also added.

The FHA covers most types of housing with the exception of some scenarios which we’ll get into below. But first, let’s look at who is not protected under this crucial act.

Owner-occupied Buildings with Four or Fewer Units

Under the FHA, owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units are exempt. This means if you’re looking to rent an apartment in a small building where the owner also lives, they could technically reject your application on grounds that would otherwise be considered discriminatory under the FHA. For example, they might prefer not to rent to someone of a particular religion or nationality.

However, it’s important to note that just because an owner can do something doesn’t mean they should. Discrimination is still discrimination, even if it falls within a legal loophole.

Single-family Homes Rented without a Broker

Single-family homes rented by the owner without the use of a broker are also exempt from the Fair Housing Act. This means if you’re looking to rent a house directly from the owner, they could technically reject your application based on factors like race or religion.

Again, while this behavior is legal under these circumstances, it’s certainly not ethical. As a prospective tenant, it’s worth considering whether you want to rent from someone who would do this.

Housing Operated by Religious Organizations

Religious organizations that operate housing are allowed to give preference to members of their own religion under the FHA. However, they still cannot discriminate based on other protected classes like race or national origin.

This means a Catholic church that owns an apartment building could legally choose to only rent to other Catholics. But they could not refuse to rent to a Catholic person of a certain race or nationality.

Housing Operated by Private Clubs

Private clubs that operate housing for their members are also exempt from the Fair Housing Act. Like religious organizations, they can choose to only house their own members but must not discriminate on other protected grounds.

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So, a private golf club could technically refuse to rent out its condos to non-members. However, it could not refuse to rent to a member because of their race or sex.

Housing Designated for Older Persons

The Fair Housing Act makes an exception for housing designated for older persons. This can be housing specifically designed for those 62 years old and over or housing where at least 80% of the units have at least one occupant who is 55 or older.

This means if you’re younger than 55 or 62 (depending on the specific designation), you can be legally excluded from this type of housing. The idea is to allow older persons to live amongst peers, without the noise and hustle often associated with younger tenants.

When Discrimination is Based on Factors Not Protected by the FHA

Finally, not every form of discrimination is covered by the Fair Housing Act. If a landlord or seller chooses not to rent or sell to you based on factors that aren’t protected by the FHA, then they’re technically not in violation of the act.

This could include factors like profession, income level, or even pet ownership. For example, they can refuse to rent to someone because they don’t earn enough money or because they own a pet.

So there you have it. While the Fair Housing Act offers powerful protections against housing discrimination, it doesn’t cover everyone or every situation. As you navigate your housing search, it’s important to be aware of these nuances and know your rights. Remember that while certain forms of discrimination may technically be legal, they’re rarely ethical and you deserve a home where you are valued and respected.

Understanding Exemptions in the Legal Context

Above mentioned exemptions are not arbitrary loopholes but are concrete components of the Fair Housing Act. The legislators who crafted the Act left these exceptions for a reason, although some people may question their relevance in a modern context.

For instance, owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units and single-family homes rented without a broker are exempt because lawmakers recognized that small landlords often have close relationships with their tenants. Close proximity and shared living spaces can create sensitive dynamics that might be disrupted if an owner could not choose their tenants freely.

The Importance of State and Local Laws

While the FHA does not protect against every form of discrimination, it’s important to remember that state and local laws often provide additional protections. Some states, cities, or counties have more comprehensive fair housing laws that include additional protected classes such as sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or military status.

Your state or local human rights agency can give you more information about what is covered in your area. Always check local laws when navigating housing issues as they might offer you extra protection where federal law falls short.

Exceptions Not Applicable to Advertising

Even though there are certain exceptions in the Fair Housing Act, it’s worth noting that these exceptions do not extend to discriminatory advertising. No matter who you are, if you advertise a property for rent or sale, you cannot make any statement indicating a preference, limitation or discrimination based on the protected categories under the FHA.

This means that even if a landlord is exempt from FHA requirements when choosing tenants, they still can’t advertise in a way that discriminates against any protected groups.

How to Recognize Discrimination

Understanding which forms of discrimination are illegal is the first step towards recognizing when your rights are being violated. Subtle discrimination can be difficult to spot. For instance, a landlord might not outright say they don’t rent to people of a certain religion, but might use coded language or seemingly innocent questions to screen prospective tenants.

Be vigilant and trust your instincts. If something feels off about the way a housing provider is interacting with you, it could be a sign of illegal discrimination.

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What to Do if You Face Discrimination

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in a housing situation, it’s crucial to know what steps you can take. Your options include filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), contacting a local fair housing organization, or consulting with an attorney who specializes in housing discrimination.

Remember, it’s important to document any instances of potential discrimination, including saving emails or text messages, taking note of verbal interactions, and even keeping witness information if applicable.

Staying Informed About Your Rights

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to fair housing laws. Staying informed about who is and is not protected under the Fair Housing Act, as well as other local and state housing laws, can help you navigate the world of real estate more confidently.

Moreover, aware tenants and homeowners can play an important role in promoting fair housing principles in their communities by calling out discrimination when they see it and encouraging others to do the same.

In conclusion, while the Fair Housing Act has exceptions, these do not justify discriminatory behavior. Moreover, each individual has a moral duty and ethical obligation to respect others’ rights and dignity in all aspects of life, including housing. It’s important that as-

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is not protected by the Fair Housing Act?

Owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units, single-family homes rented without a broker, housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs, and housing designated for older persons are not protected under the Fair Housing Act.

2. Can a landlord refuse to rent to someone based on their profession?

Yes, the Fair Housing Act does not protect against discrimination based on profession.

3. What steps can I take if I face housing discrimination?

You can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), contact a local fair housing organization, or consult with an attorney who specializes in housing discrimination.

4. What types of properties are exempt from Fair Housing Act?

Owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units, single-family homes rented without a broker, housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs, and housing designated for older persons are exempt from the FHA.

5. Can a landlord refuse to rent to someone based on income level?

Yes, landlords can refuse to rent to someone based on income level. This type of discrimination is not covered under the FHA.

6. Can an owner advertise their property indicating preference on race or religion?

No, even if an owner belongs to categories exempt from certain FHA rules, discriminatory advertising is always illegal.

7. Are there additional protections beyond FHA at state and local levels?

Yes, several states and localities have their own fair housing laws that offer protections beyond those at the federal level. Always check the laws in your specific area for more information.

8. Can a private club refuse to rent out its condos to non-members?

Yes, Private clubs that operate housing for their members are exempt from the Fair Housing Act and can refuse rental to non-members.

9. Can a religious organization refuse to rent to a person of different religion?

Yes, Religious organizations that operate housing can give preference to members of their own religion under the FHA.

10. What is the purpose of the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act was created to prohibit discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion or national origin, sex, disability status, and familial status.

11. When was the Fair Housing Act enacted?

The Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968 as an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

12. Does FHA have any exceptions?

Yes, the Fair Housing Act has certain exceptions including owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units, single-family homes rented without a broker, housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs, and housing designated for older persons.

13. How to recognize discrimination?

Subtle discrimination can be difficult to spot. Landlords might use coded language or seemingly innocent questions to screen prospective tenants. If something feels off about the way a housing provider is interacting with you, it could be a sign of illegal discrimination.

14. What additional protections were added to the Fair Housing Act over time?

In 1974, sex was added as a protected class. In 1988, disability status and familial status (presence of children under 18) were also added.

15. Are older persons allowed to discriminate against younger persons in housing?

The Fair Housing Act makes an exception for housing designed for older persons. This means if you’re younger than 55 or 62 (depending on the specific designation), you can be legally excluded from this type of housing.

A Fair Chance for All

Understanding your rights and the limitations of the Fair Housing Act is one of the first steps towards a fair and equal housing market. While there are exceptions, remember, exploiting these loopholes to unjustly discriminate is not only unethical, but it also undermines the very purpose of this law – to provide a fair chance for all in securing a place called home. Let’s strive for a world where everyone is given equal opportunity irrespective of their race, religion, gender, age or any other status.