Treating people fairly is key to the long-term success of your real estate investment. Landlord-tenant laws ensure this. Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based on a protected characteristic.
In the state of Missouri, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against 7 characteristics: race, color, religion, national origin, disability, familial status, sexual orientation, and sex. Failure to adhere to the Act can usually attract a host of penalties.
To help you get started, here are answers to some commonly asked questions regarding the Missouri Fair Housing Act:
What led to the enactment of the FHA?
After the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, the Jim Crow laws were introduced. These rules mandated the segregation of public transportation, public places, and public schools between white and black people.
Several decades later, attempts were made to stamp out housing discrimination that had become commonplace. But it wasn’t until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that any real change took place.
The first attempts at fair housing were made via the enactment of two laws: the Rumford Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act. These housing laws were enacted in 1963 and 1964 respectively.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was, however, the real groundbreaking law. It came hot on the heels of the assassination of the civil rights crusader, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Basically, the housing act mandates that all owners treat each applicant equally. After the bill was passed, President Richard Nixon appointed representatives to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
What are some common discrimination practices by landlords?
In Missouri, you are legally obligated to be fair to all renters, both prospective and existing. This is particularly crucial during the tenant selection process. This does not apply to squatters, however, who have no current legal right to the property.
Penalties for violating the FHA are not only costly, but they can also negatively impact your reputation.
The following are some things you should avoid at all costs:
- Pushing a person towards certain neighborhoods or units based on a protected characteristic. For example, it’d be considered discrimination if you steer disabled tenants toward units on the first floor. Whether disabled or not, you should strive to treat all renters equally and fairly. What’s more, you’re obligated to follow through on reasonable requests for modifications by a disabled person.
- Asking discriminatory screening questions during the screening process. However innocent they may seem, certain questions are simply out-of-bounds. For example: how many children do you have? Do you go to church? Where are you originally from? Familial status, national origin, and religion are protected classes.
- Intimidating or harassing a person for reasons like breaking the lease. You cannot harass or intimidate your residents. For example, you cannot create lease terms that are unfair and pressure a person into accepting them.
- Saying a dwelling isn’t available when indeed it is.
- Treating existing residents differently. To avoid housing discrimination, you’ll still need to be fair to your renters even after the selection process is over. You cannot, for instance, set different rules for different persons living in the same dwelling.
- Stating the kind of persons you’re looking for in your listing ad. There are certain statements that you aren’t allowed to include in your ad copy. For example: “This dwelling is perfect for a young couple.” Similarly, you cannot say, “Looking for a young family to rent to.”
Are there any groups that are exempted from the FHA?
The following are some groups that may be exempt from the provisions of the Fair Housing Act. The groups include:
- Members-only organizations or private clubs.
- Owner-occupied homes with a maximum of four units.
- Single-family homes that are sold or rented without a real estate broker.
Who enforces the Fair Housing Act?
The body responsible for enforcing the FHA is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD carries out its mandate in two main ways.
Firstly, they enforce the Fair Housing Act by hiring testers. The HUD may hire a person to pose as prospective home buyers or renter to check for discrimination practices. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your screening process is fair to all applicants.
Secondly, the act is enforced by carrying out investigations. A renter or a home buyer who feels they have been discriminated against can file a discrimination claim with the HUD. The HUD will then investigate the claims and make a decision.
How can you protect yourself as a landlord?
Experienced realt estate owners know the ins and outs of the renter selection process. This includes how to draft an ad, and how to run credit checks and renting background on prospects.
The same cannot, however, be said of first-time landlords because they may not know how to find renters nor what the Fair Housing Act is all about.
So, if you are just starting out, please consider hiring professional help. A qualified real estate manager has the experience and skills to help you manage your units in the best way possible.
Hire Professional Help
Real Property Group can help ensure your Missouri real estate investments are handled in accordance with all relevant laws. Our #1 goal is to help owners maximize their income through quality management services.
As a full-service property management company, we can help you in more ways than just one. We can help you fill your properties quickly through results-driven marketing strategies. We can also help protect your property and keep your renters happy through regular maintenance.
Did we also mention that 99% of our renters pay rent on time? That’s right. If you hire us, you’ll have a consistent income stream.
Real Property Group is a trusted and proven property management company. We maintain active memberships with organizations such as Realtor, Equal Housing Opportunity, and Missouri Realtors.
So, what are you still waiting for? If you own a property in Columbia, Rocheport, Ashland, Hallsville, Hartsburg, or Harrisburg, give us a call today! You can get in touch with us by dialing 573-818-3824.