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You are reading: Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Statistics and How to Protect Yourself

April 11, 2024

Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Statistics and How to Protect Yourself

Daniel Berlind
CEO

Housing discrimination is a pervasive issue in the United States that affects millions of people every year. Despite legal protections, discriminatory practices continue to be reported and can profoundly impact the lives of those targeted.

But there’s hope! Property managers can help prevent housing discrimination and promote inclusive and equitable communities. In this article, we’ll dive into the legal landscape, review some statistics on housing discrimination, and provide some killer tips for property managers. Let’s do this!

Legal Landscape

So what sets the stage for these discrimination lawsuits? The Fair Housing Act of 1968, that’s what. The Fair Housing laws prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. The law applies to all aspects of housing, including advertising, leasing, maintenance, and repair.

In addition to federal protections, many states have their own laws that prohibit discrimination based on other factors, such as sexual orientation or gender identity. Property managers must know these laws and ensure that their practices are compliant. Otherwise, they can get into big legal trouble.

There have been many successful lawsuits against property owners and managers for housing discrimination in recent years. These cases have involved a range of discriminatory practices, including policies around criminal background checks, preferential treatment for certain tenants, and steering minority tenants into certain buildings or neighborhoods. Property managers should be aware of these cases and ensure their practices are fair and transparent.

Statistics on Housing Discrimination

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance:

  • 31,216 complaints were filed in 2021; an 8.7% increase compared to 2020, when 28,712 fair housing complaints were filed
  • Private fair housing organizations processed 72% of all complaints in 2021, more than 2.6 times the number of complaints processed by state, local and federal government agencies combined
  • Discrimination based on disability accounts for more than 50% of complaints filed
  • The second most reported type of housing discrimination was based on race, with 5,922 or 19% of all complaints, compared to 17% in 2020
  • Rental-related housing complaints soared in 2021. There were 25,501 complaints of rental discrimination filed with both non-profit and governmental agencies.

Minority groups such as African Americans, Latinos, and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by housing discrimination. The rise in discrimination lawsuits makes it essential for property managers to take proactive steps to prevent it.

Tips for Property Managers

As a property manager, one of your most important responsibilities is to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community for your tenants. Unfortunately, housing discrimination remains a pervasive problem in the United States, despite the many legal protections in place to prevent it.

As a result, property managers must take proactive steps to prevent discrimination in all aspects of their business, from advertising and leasing to maintenance and repair.

Provide Accessibility

Property managers should ensure that their properties are accessible to people with disabilities. By providing accessible features such as accessible parking spots, ramps, elevators, and modified living spaces, they can create an environment that promotes independence and equal opportunities for all tenants.

They should also provide visual alarms for deaf and hard-of-hearing tenants and include accommodations for service animals. Remember, service animals are not pets, and you cannot deny an applicant for requiring one. Accommodating accessibility needs enhances the overall tenant experience and satisfaction, fostering a positive reputation for the property and attracting a wider range of potential renters.

Develop a Fair and Thorough Screening Process

Your tenant screening process is one of the most important parts of your business. It’s what allows people to live in your property, after all. However, it’s also the part that can easily get you into trouble with Fair Housing if you aren’t careful.

Property managers should create a fair, standardized application process that’s based on objective criteria. This may include factors such as:

  • Credit history: Reviewing the applicant’s credit history can give you a good idea of whether or not they will be able to pay rent consistently and on time. It will also show you if they have any outstanding debts or collections.
  • Background checks: A background check can provide information on an applicant’s criminal history, sex offender status, and other relevant information. This can help you ensure your properties’ and other tenants’ safety and security.
  • Income verification: This step proves that an applicant can pay their rent. This may include verifying employment, bank statements, and pay stubs.
  • Rental history: Checking an applicant’s rental history can provide insight into what kind of tenant they are and how long they’ve been a renter.

Be cautious when it comes to examining an applicant’s criminal history. The qualification criteria set by fair housing laws state that criminal history can be considered and used to determine whether an applicant will be accepted or denied, but only based on:

  • The nature of the offense/charge
  • Whether the final disposition resulted in a guilty verdict or plea
  • The amount of elapsed time from the date of final disposition

It’s suggested that you exclude convictions older than seven years and not use them as a reason to reject an applicant. Suppose you reject an applicant based on the results of a criminal history check. In that case, it’s important that your decision is made in order to protect the safety of the residents and property, and not a policy against all people with felonies on their record.

Lastly, some states don’t allow a criminal history check as part of a tenant screening process. Make sure you review your local and state laws before adding this step.

Review Policies and Procedures

One of the most important aspects of complying with fair housing laws is regularly reviewing your policies and procedures. This includes taking a closer look at your advertising materials, lease agreements, and tenant screening criteria to ensure they align with federal and state laws.

Not only does this help you stay on the right side of the law, but it also demonstrates your commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming community for all. By staying informed and vigilant, you can create a safe and equitable living environment that meets the needs of all tenants, regardless of their background or identity.

Hire a Diverse Staff

Property managers should strive to hire a diverse staff that reflects the communities they serve. This can lead to improved communication, better customer service, and a more personalized experience for each tenant.

With a diverse staff, you can create a welcoming and inclusive culture that celebrates diversity and promotes understanding across different cultures and identities. This can lead to a better tenant experience and a more positive reputation for your business.

To Sum Up…

Housing discrimination is a serious issue that affects millions of people every year. As a property manager, it is essential to understand the legal landscape, stay up-to-date on best practices, and implement transparent and inclusive policies. Property managers can help create welcoming and inclusive communities for all tenants by taking proactive steps to prevent housing discrimination.

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