Landlords have a legal responsibility to treat prospective tenants equally per the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The act was passed into law by Congress in 1968 with the goal of stamping out discrimination in housing-related matters.
Besides landlords, the FHA also applies to buyers and lenders. In Arizona, the government agency tasked with enforcing the Arizona Fair Housing Act is the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
If you want to learn more about the Fair Housing Act keep on reading!
What Classes are Protected by the Arizona Fair Housing Act?
The Arizona FHA protects 10 classes of people. They are as follows:
- Race – Whether screening tenants or responding to maintenance issues, you must treat all tenants equally regardless of their race.
- Color – Discriminating against a tenant on the basis of skin color is illegal per the Act.
- Gender – The act not only protects males and females from housing-related discrimination but also protects those who have undergone gender reassignment.
- Religion – You should treat tenants equally regardless of their faith.
- Nationality – Whether deliberate or carried out indirectly, discrimination based on national origin is illegal in Arizona.
- Familial Status – You cannot turn away a prospective tenant because of their familial status.
How Did the Fair Housing Act Come About?
As already mentioned, the Fair Housing Act was enacted by Congress in 1968. The federal law prohibits discrimination in all housing-related matters, including the rental, sale, purchase, and financing of housing.
Originally, the statute prohibited discrimination on the basis of 5 classes: race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. However, over time, the statute has undergone several amendments.
The first was the 1974 amendment, which added gender to the list of protected classes. Then, later in 1988, the Act included protections for disabled persons and families with children. Local ordinances in Arizona have also made it illegal to deny housing based on age, marital status, and sexual orientation.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was what paved way for the enactment of the Fair Housing Act. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to help end racial segregation and injustice in the 1950s and ‘60s. It was, however, the FHA that was passed 4 years later that brought real change.
Which Housing Providers are Covered by the Fair Housing Act?
The following housing providers are covered by the act:
- Condominium associations
- Owners of building lots
- Developers, contractors, and builders
- Real estate-related organizations including agents, brokers, and real estate operators
- Leasing managers
- Investment property owners
- Lending institutions
- Insurance companies
- Advertising agencies
Are There Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act?
Yes, the act has exemptions in some instances. The act exempts:
- Private clubs that limit occupancy to members
- Housing operated by religious organizations
- Single-family homes that are sold or rented by the owner without the use of agency services
- Owner-occupied buildings with a maximum of four units
What are Examples of Discriminatory Actions that Fair Housing Laws Prevent?
- Refusing to rent your home because a tenant is of a particular race, color, national origin, or belongs to any other protected class.
- Setting different terms to tenants based on their protected characteristics. For example, running credit checks on one group of potential tenants but failing to do the same on other prospects
- Providing your tenants with different amenities
- Evicting a tenant based on a protected characteristic
- Failing to provide or delaying maintenance on repairs because the tenant is of a certain race or color
- Running ads that contain a discriminatory message. For example, “Suitable for a Female Student,” or “Ideal for Single Professionals.”
- Steering a tenant away from a section of a neighborhood or community
- Harassing or intimidating tenants
- Asking the wrong questions when screening prospective tenants. For instance, how many children do you have? Are you married? Have you ever been arrested?
What Types of Housing Does the Fair Housing Act Cover?
Generally speaking, the Act and its laws cover most housing including condominiums, single-family homes, and manufactured homes.
How Can Arizona Landlords Avoid Housing Discrimination?
The following are some tips on how a landlord can avoid housing discrimination:
Tip #1: Write Proper Ads
When writing your rental ad, you’ll want to steer clear of any discriminatory language. Specifically, make sure that it doesn’t suggest that a tenant falling into any of the aforementioned classes won’t be accepted.
The following are examples of statements you’ll want to avoid when writing your online ad.
- Perfect for singles
- Ideal for young professionals
- Christians preferred
As a general rule of thumb, use the ad to describe the rental property’s features rather than the ideal tenant a landlord wants.
Tip #2: Screen Tenants the Right Way
Uniformity is crucial when it comes to screening tenants. If there are disparities, you’ll be in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Tailor your rental application in such a way that every applicant goes through the same exact process.
Tip #3: Act Professionally
Discrimination can also occur during the day-to-day management of existing tenants. You’ll want to apply the lease policies equally to avoid being accused of discrimination.
When it comes to repairs and maintenance, for instance, a landlord should treat all requests equally. It’d be considered discriminatory for a landlord to respond more quickly to housing repair requests made by men than those made by women, for example.
As a landlord, you have a legal responsibility to abide by the Fair Housing Laws. You must also follow the landlord-tenant laws, security deposit laws, the legal eviction process, leasing laws, and more.
Should you find this responsibility daunting, Property Plus USA can help. We are Metro Phoenix’s premier property management experts. Contact us today to learn more about our services!
Disclaimer: These laws are subject to change therefore this post may not be up-to-date at the time you’re reading it. Please do not use this post as a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need legal assistance please contact a licensed attorney.