The Fair Housing Act is critical in protecting tenants’ rights and promoting equal access to housing opportunities. Understanding the nuances of this legislation and landlord-tenant laws is critical for Rhode Island landlords to ensure adherence and foster an inviting atmosphere for all residents. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of the Fair Housing Act and its application in Rhode Island.
Federal Fair Housing Act
The Federal Act, enacted in 1968, is a landmark piece of legislation that prohibits housing discrimination. At its core, the act ensures that everyone has access to housing opportunities. Every individual has the right to secure housing free of discrimination, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status.
Federal Agency in Charge of Fair Housing Laws
The federal agency in charge of overseeing and enforcing the Fair Housing Act is the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR) plays an important role in promoting fair housing law at the state level.
Type of Discrimination the Fair Housing Act Prohibit in Rhode Island
The Fair Housing Act in Rhode Island goes above and beyond the federal protections stated in the Federal legislation. The Rhode Island law expands protections against prejudice based on a broader range of characteristics. Landlords must be aware of and adhere to the protected classes listed below:
- Race and Color: As housing providers, landlords must ensure that all tenants are treated equally, regardless of their racial or ethnic background.
- Religion: All individuals, regardless of their faith, should have access to housing opportunities.
- Familial Status and Marital Status: Families with children under the age of 18 are protected under the Fair Housing Act. Discrimination against families with children, including restrictions on occupancy, is strictly prohibited. What’s more, landlords cannot treat individuals differently based on whether they are married, single, divorced, or widowed.
- Sex: Landlords must treat all tenants fairly, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
- National Origin: Individuals cannot be discriminated against due to their national origin or ancestry.
- Disability: Landlords must make reasonable accommodations to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to housing.
- Military Status: Discrimination against individuals based on their military status is not allowed. This includes active-duty service members, veterans, and members of the National Guard or Reserves. Those with this military status may also have permission to terminate their leases early under certain circumstances.
- Lawful Source of Income: Landlords must consider all legitimate sources of income when evaluating a tenant, including income from employment, government assistance, or other lawful sources.
- Housing Status: Individuals in Rhode Island cannot be discriminated against based on their housing status, which includes whether they are currently unhoused or have experienced homelessness in the past.
- Victim of Domestic Abuse: Rhode Island recognizes protection for individuals who have been victims of domestic abuse.
- Age: Landlords must treat individuals equally regardless of their age, ensuring that housing opportunities are not denied based on age-related factors.
Providing Fair Housing Access
Fair housing requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses the entire rental process. Below is a breakdown of important landlord considerations:
- Making Reasonable Accommodations: Make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities so that they can enjoy the premises equally to others.
- Advertising: Make sure that all advertisements are inclusive, and avoid using language that implies a preference for or against a specific group of people.
- Screening: Use consistent screening requirements for all applicants, emphasizing financial factors and rental history over protected characteristics.
- Renting: Provide nondiscriminatory housing opportunities, ensuring that all tenants have the same access to amenities and services.
- Answering Inquiries: Respond to a prospective tenant inquiry consistently and honestly. Questions that may lead to discriminatory decisions should be avoided.
- Pricing: Determine fair and consistent rent and security deposit fees for all tenants. Pricing discrimination based on protected characteristics is strictly prohibited.
- Accepting Applications: Treat all applicants fairly, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, familial status, or disability. Establish clear and non-discriminatory tenant selection criteria.
- Evictions: Ensure that evictions are carried out for valid reasons like non-payment of rent or lease violations and not for discriminatory purposes.
Providing Equal Housing Opportunity
To prevent discrimination, providing equal housing to a tenant entails understanding and adhering to the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must be aware that, while the act prohibits discrimination against families with children, reasonable policies regarding maximum occupancy can be established.
These policies, however, should be consistent with local housing codes and avoid arbitrary restrictions that disproportionately affect families with children, as this could result in violations.
Furthermore, landlords in Rhode Island are required to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant with disabilities, such as allowing service animals and modifying premises to ensure equal access to housing. Landlords must recognize and eliminate unequal treatment, denial of housing opportunities, and disparate impact in their rental processes to combat housing discrimination.
Landlords can find it difficult to navigate the complexities of fair housing regulations, which is where Lyon Property Management comes in. As a trusted management partner, we’re proficient in fair housing regulations and can assist rental owners in Rhode Island in complying while providing a positive rental experience for all occupants.
Landlords who use Lyon Property Management can concentrate on the core aspects of rental ownership while leaving the complexities of fair housing management to the experts. Accept fair housing practices, promote inclusivity, and leave the rest to us.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.