The Outliers of Fair Housing
Fair Housing is pretty clear cut for the most part. Federal and state laws clearly list the protected classes and outline the ways in which they are to be protected. There are however, outliers: situations in which doing the right thing isn’t always clear and when it is easy to make a mistake and violate Fair Housing laws. Most often it is just not realizing someone is a member of a protected class or fully understanding the situation. Let’s take a tour of some of the less common, but altogether more difficult situations in Fair Housing.
- Domestic violence. This situation is horrifying and scary for not only the resident, but also neighbors and the community team members. Years ago it was almost commonplace to evict residents for continual fighting and disturbing the peaceful enjoyment for others. Recently, however, courts around the country have been utilizing Fair Housing laws to help victims of domestic violence obtain and preserve their housing by linking this crisis to gender discrimination. We recommend you always talk to your supervisor to ensure you clearly understand your company’s policies on domestic abuse, and for anyone wanting additional guidance, here is a great resource - http://www.fairhousingrights.org/Housing_Laws/Domestic_Violence.htm
- Hoarders. Reality TV has made hoarding a popular topic, but the reality of hoarding and how it damages an apartment has been apparent for decades to property management. Hoarders can find protection under fair housing laws due to their hoarding disability. Hoarding is considered a mental disability and therefore hoarders should be treated as disabled individuals, not irrational folks addicted to flea market finds. Hoarders should not be allowed to live in a dangerous situation and certainly cannot be allowed to create a dangerous situation for others, but instead of evicting a hoarder, you should try and accommodate them. Please talk with your supervisor about how you’ll handle such a situation should it arise at your community. Here is a great tip sheet on dealing with hoarders - http://www.mbhp.org/HoardingFHFactSheet.pdf
- Residents with emotional support animals. Not everyone with a service animal has an obvious disability that demonstrates their need. This is especially true for emotional support animals. People with mental and emotional disabilities may seem completely healthy when interacting with you. It is okay that it is not immediately apparent to you that they have a need for their service animal. You may request documentation that demonstrates their need for the assistance animal. Your company most likely has a standard letter for making this request; check with your supervisor. What you may not do is deny the applicant due to their disability or attempt to charge pet fees or pet rent because of a service animal. A service animal is not a pet, after all. For additional information on emotional support animals check out this link http://www.bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=mHq8GV0FI4c%3D&tabid=2
None of this is meant to be legal advice, so if are facing a situation that you are unsure of how to handle pick up the phone or email your attorney, your supervisor or even your local HUD office.