Fair Housing Testing

Fair Housing Testing

Fair Housing Testing

Fair housing testing is a way to test for housing discrimination. It’s a form of mystery shopping where testers pose as prospective renters by inquiring about a rental property for example. These testers who pose as applicants, document the treatment they receive from housing providers for the purpose of determining whether they are complying with the federal Fair Housing Act. At any given time, the Fair Housing Testing Program run by the Department of Justice conducts numerous investigations simultaneously. 

HUD The Enforcer:

  • Fair Housing Testers: HUD hires people to pose as renters
    • To ensure no landlord is violating fair housing laws
    • As a landlord, you should always be careful

Why is Testing for Housing Discrimination Important?

Fair housing laws make it illegal to discriminate against applicants for rental housing or homebuyers in housing. Testing is an integral part of the enforcement of federal, state, and local fair housing laws. That’s because it can expose discriminatory patterns and practices of housing providers that might otherwise go undetected.

Why Should You Care About Fair Housing Testing?

First, renting and managing your property the fair housing way is good business! Second, the law says you must rent and manage your property without discriminating. Third, if a tenant sues you for discrimination and the court rules against you, the impact can be devastating. In fact, you can end up paying a significant amount of money to  your tenant. As a result of being sued, your reputation could be damaged. So, from the standpoint of how do you prepare for a fair housing tester? Well, that one is obvious, be fair and follow the rules!

This Article Is Not Intended To Provide Legal Advice

This Article Is For Informational Purposes ONLY

**This article is not a substitute for a lawyer’s evaluation of any specific fair housing problem you may have, and it is not intended to provide legal advice. Therefore specific examples we give are merely illustrations to help you understand how the law works. Please note that the examples may or may not be the way the law would apply to your specific situation. What we hope is that you will gain a better understanding of fair housing laws and how they work. Also note, the examples/illustrations provided in this article are only a few of the fair housing laws. For any issues or questions pertaining to fair housing laws please consult with a qualified attorney. A qualified attorney should be your only source for legal questions you have relating to the subject matter.**

Housing Discrimination

Housing discrimination happens when someone is treated differently because of a special trait that is protected by the law. For example, it is illegal not to rent to someone because he or she is disabled. The law calls disability a special trait “protected categories.”

Federal & California Law Protected Categories (Special Traits)

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status
  • Disability

California Law Additional Protected (Groups) 

  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity & Expression
  • Source Of Income (for example section 8)
  • Marital Status
  • Age
  • Arbitrary Characteristics
    • Example: Refusing to rent to someone because he or she is gay

Examples Housing Discrimination:

  • Refusing to give a tenant who is in a wheel chair a closer parking space (when one is available and/or requested)
  • Putting tenants of another race or national origin in another area of your property
  • Refusing to rent to an applicant because he or she relies upon disability income to pay their rent

Fair Housing Act (Following the Rules)

Be careful what you say in person, on the phone and in your ads. While you must adhere to the terms of the Fair Housing Act, you can rule out tenants based on other criteria. For example, it is legal to deny a tenant based on poor credit. Other things to make note of: one, be consistent when screening tenants. Second, use the same exact screening process for each prospective tenant. Third, get the same information, documents, referrals, and fees. And last but not least, treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter what!

How to Avoid Fair Housing Violations

Landlords should choose applicants based on whether they are likely to be good tenants. Do not base a decision on an assumption. The best practice is to base your decisions on facts such as credit reports and past rental history. To help protect you and your investment hire a property management company. A property management company provides a buffer against the personal financial liability surrounding fair housing laws, landlord-tenant regulations, and eviction procedures.

Will You Be Tested?

While the odds may be slim, the chances you will be tested by one of these fair housing testers is always present. Of the most strategic ways to protect yourself against a fair housing complaint is having a professional property management company manage your rentals. Whether you are interested in changing property managers, or simply looking to hire a property management company for the very first time, we can help. We take care of all types of residential rental properties including homes, condos, multifamily real estate such as duplex and triplexes, and even small apartment buildings. Let us manage your rental properties, so you can enjoy your life!  Call us today at (858) 576-2176.