Managing rental properties comes with many responsibilities, and critical to that is Fair Housing Law
Managing rental properties without following the laws can be an expensive endeavor. If you are involved in any rental, as a tenant, manager, or licensee you need to know how to follow the guidelines established by our states Revised Codes of Washington (RCW's).
The RCW's are the laws which govern real estate in Washington but there are also federal laws which dictate how to handle fair housing situations. The federal government provides a base set of fair housing laws that everyone must follow, which is covered in this course. In addition to the federal laws, states are allowed to codify additional protected classes (people protected under fair housing law). This course will cover the federal and state fair housing laws to provide a comprehensive fair housing background.
This course should open your eyes to the many problems that licensees should avoid in any rental situation. All property management companies should require their licensees to take this course.
A Brief History
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, passed by the Reconstruction Congress, guaranteed property rights to all, regardless of race. It was another hundred years before any real change in fair housing came about, with the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act – Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which added color, national origin, religion and sex. The Fair Housing Act represented the culmination of years of congressional consideration of housing discrimination legislation. Its legislative history spanned the urban riots of 1967, the release of the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission Report, which concluded that America was moving toward two societies, separate and unequal), and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Fair Housing Amendments Act, adding two more protected classes (families with children and people with disabilities), strengthening the administrative and judicial enforcement process for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) complaints, and providing monetary penalties in cases where housing discrimination is found to have occurred.
Fair Housing Laws
What fair housing laws apply in Washington state and who enforces them?
The federal Fair Housing Act and its 1988 amendments (FHA) protect people from negative housing actions that occur because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or family status, which are “protected classes” under the FHA. State and local fair housing laws cover additional groups, such as marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, participation in the Section 8 Program, etc. HUD enforces the FHA. The Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) enforces the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW 49.60. Three local agencies enforce fair housing ordinances – King County Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), and the Tacoma Human Rights and Human Services Department (THR). The state and local laws are considered “substantially equivalent” to the FHA, and HUD contracts with these agencies to handle most fair housing investigations in Washington.
Which laws apply to our property?
The Fair Housing Act and the state fair housing law cover most housing rental properties. WSHRC has jurisdiction over housing anywhere in the state of Washington. If a property is located in unincorporated King County, OCR has jurisdiction. SOCR and THR handle complaints within the city limits of Seattle and Tacoma. The City of Bellevue Code Compliance office investigates Section 8 cases in that city (WSHRC handles all other fair housing cases in Bellevue). Appendix A lists the fair housing agencies and their contact information.
Most types of housing properties are covered – leased or rented apartments; houses or condominiums that are sold, leased or rented; rooming houses; cooperatives; temporary shelters; mobile home parks; roommate situations (except a renter can specify a roommate’s sex); construction sites; and even empty lots. If uncertain whether a property is covered, contact any local fair housing agency. See the Glossary in Appendix D for a list of exemptions.
What housing actions are prohibited by fair housing laws?
Fair Housing laws prohibit the following housing actions:
Even though the original allegation might turn out to be unfounded, if a housing provider takes retaliatory action, a retaliation complaint can be supported.
A resident complains of racial harassment. A week later, the manager issues her a parking violation notice but does not give notices to other residents for the same offence. The resident files a complaint. The civil rights office finds no evidence of harassment; however, the investigation shows that the manager retaliated against the resident for the harassment complaint by issuing the parking notice.