The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was originally passed by Congress in 1968. Its aim was to address the rampant discrimination that existed in housing-related activities, such as in the renting, lending and selling of homes.
Prior to its passage, it was commonplace for prospective tenants to be turned away due to their race or color of their skin, for instance. You also cannot evict a tenant for discriminatory reasons. The act was created on the principle that every American has a right to equal housing.
The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the Fair Housing Act in Texas.
What Activities Led to the Creation of the Fair Housing Act?
The clamor for equal housing rights began back in the 1950s and 60s and was mainly spearheaded by the Civil Rights Movement. Below are some crucial historical highlights that led to the creation of the Fair Housing Act.
The first stab at addressing housing discrimination was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination of black people by employers and in public places.
Another noteworthy highlight were the lobbies by civil rights group, specifically by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). It aimed to end racial discrimination on the basis of race and color, especially for colored veterans relocating back from war.
The other important highlights that led to the FHA’s creation include the open housing marches in Chicago and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
What Classes of People are Protected by the Fair Housing Act in Texas?
In Texas, protections exist only at the federal level as the state is yet to legislate on extra classes. The protected classes are race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and nationality.
The state department for Housing and Community Affairs is the government organization tasked with handling housing discrimination issues.
What Behaviors by Landlords Can Potentially Be Discriminatory?
As a landlord, it’s important that you familiarize yourself well with the Fair Housing Act. Otherwise, you risk certain penalties if found guilty.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the maximum civil penalties are $16,000 for a first violation and up to $65,000 for repeat violations within a 7-year period. The penalties can even be higher where the Department of Justice is involved.
The following are examples of behaviors that can get you in trouble with the Texas Department for Housing and Community Affairs.
- Treating tenants differently. For instance, setting a higher security deposit for some tenants on the basis of their race or color.
- Using discriminative language in a rental ad. For instance, stating your Texas rental property is “Ideal for a Single Professional,” or “Perfect for a Christian” would both be examples of discriminatory language.
- Saying that a unit is unavailable when it is
- Sexually harassing your tenant
- Harassing or intimidating your tenant
- Steering a tenant towards neighbors and areas that may be seen as segregated
In addition, certain questions are a definitive no when it comes to tenant screening. The following are some examples.
- Where are you originally from? Or, are you half-Asian?
- Are you two boyfriends?
- Are your kids well-behaved?
- Is that a service dog?
- Do you get asked out a lot?
- Are you religious?
What Housing Players are Prohibited from Housing Discrimination?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits the following housing players from engaging in discrimination.
- Property managers
- Property owners
- Real estate agents
- Mortgage lenders
- Real estate developers
- Homeowner associations
- Insurance providers
Basically, the Fair Housing Act prohibits anyone or any entity involved in helping a client secure housing from engaging in discrimination.
Are There Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act?
There are some exceptions to the Fair Housing Act. They are as follows.
- Religious organizations
- Private clubs
- Housing communities for the elderly
- Single-family housing
- Dwellings that have four or fewer units
What Special Privileges Do the Disabled Have in Texas?
Disability is any condition that affects a person’s mental or physical capacity and that has a major impact on their life. Disability includes visual impairments, mobility impairments, mental illness, chronic alcoholism, severe intellectual disability, and AIDS-related complex.
Disability is one of the protected classes under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Disabled tenants have a right to make modifications under the Fair Housing Act, including changes to the lease.
Examples of such modifications include the following.
- Installing a ramp to allow for easier wheelchair access to a raised living room
- Modifying kitchen appliances to accommodate a blind tenant
- Installing door handles or special faucets due to limited hand use
- Lowering countertops for easier access from a wheelchair
In addition to this, disabled tenants also have a right to reasonable accommodations. An example would be to allow a tenant with a service pet in order to comply with the provisions of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) if you have a “no pets” policy.
How Can Landlords in Texas Avoid Potential Accusations of Housing Discrimination?
The following are some of the things you can do to protect yourself against violating the Fair Housing Act.
- Keep a record of every detail immediately after an accusation or altercation
- Have consistent rules and policies. Don’t administer rules selectively. If you require a tenant to pay a fee for late payment of rent, do the same for others as well.
- Keep all your interactions professional. The old commercial slogan – “Never let them see you sweat” – applies tenfold in this regard. Maintain a professional demeanor at all times, in order to make sure that complaints don’t have a solid ground to stand on.
- Be careful of what you say. Telling a tenant, for instance, that a unit is unavailable can end up landing you in legal trouble. Whether said in jest or not, remember to be mindful at all times.
- Hire a property management company. Are you just starting out? Or, are you an out of state investor? If you are, hiring a property management company can be the ideal option. A local property management company will have the proper understanding of the Fair Housing laws and will have fair policies and practices.
Do you still need help in regards to the Fair Housing Act in Texas? If so, Keyrenter North Dallas can help. We’re a quality Dallas property management company. Get in touch to get started!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change and this content may not be up to date at the time you read it. For expert legal advice, kindly get in touch with Keyrenter North Dallas. We can help you take the stress out of managing your North Dallas property, including helping you handle your legal obligations.