A Fair Housing notice is a publication issued by the federal government or a state agency outlining specific laws and regulations related to prohibited discriminatory housing practices. It’s essentially a form of communication designed to ensure that those who can affect housing opportunities follow related laws, namely the Fair Housing Act on the federal level and applicable state laws, such as the New York State (NYS) Human Rights Law.
In most cases, a Fair Housing notice doesn’t just inform home sellers, landlords, and similar individuals who influence housing opportunities of the rules; the document also ensures that individuals know the laws. That way, if they are the victim of discrimination, they know the regulations and what they can do if they need to file a complaint.
If you want to understand more of what a Fair Housing notice covers, it’s best to look at the applicable laws. Here is a look at federal and state fair housing laws for New York residents, including the federal Fair Housing Act and NYS Human Rights Law.
An Overview of the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prohibits anyone who impacts housing opportunities from discriminating against prospective renters or buyers based on their race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, familial status, or national origin. The laws apply to anyone who can influence housing opportunities, including:
- Real Estate Agents
- Property Managers
- Housing Assistance Providers
- Real Estate Developers
- Mortgage Lenders
- Homeowners Associations
- Property Insurance Providers
- And More
However, the Fair Housing Act does not guarantee that a person can rent or buy any home they choose. A person may not qualify for a rental or home based on factors that aren’t protected.
For example, income level is not a protected status. As long as a landlord, seller, mortgage lender, or any other entity involved in housing opportunities applies income rules evenly to all potential renters or buyers, they can implement income-based restrictions.
Additionally, while the law covers the vast majority of housing in the country, there are limited exemptions from the Fair Housing Act. As a result, it’s technically possible to miss out on a housing opportunity based on criteria that would classically be considered discriminatory due to a special condition.
Examples of Housing Discrimination
Generally speaking, an action is housing discrimination if it causes a person to miss out on housing opportunities based solely on their familial status, race, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or religion. Usually, examples of housing discrimination fall into one of two categories.
First, there’s refusing to work with or serve someone because of their membership in a particular demographic. This could include refusing to sell or rent a home, rejecting mortgage applications, or denying property insurance to a person based on any protected status above.
Second, it’s housing discrimination if there are different requirements based on a person’s membership in a particular group. For example, charging higher deposit amounts to individuals of a specific race or requiring higher credit scores for people of a certain gender are discriminatory practices. The same can go for using different rent or sale prices based on a person’s membership in a particular demographic category.
It’s important to note that how housing opportunities are advertised can also become discriminatory. For instance, using any language that alludes to demographic preferences isn’t permitted by the Fair Housing Act.
Similarly, it is discriminatory to steer aspiring buyers or renters to specific neighborhoods and draw them away from others based on their race, national origin, or similar factors. This can include real estate agents only showing properties in a particular area based on a person’s membership in a specific demographic group, denying a mortgage due to a discriminatory factor to keep a person from buying in a certain location, and similar actions.
Even just discouraging a person from pursuing a particular home based on a discriminatory factor isn’t permitted under the law. Whether that discouragement is aggressive – such as threats or intimidating behavior – or subtle – such as suggesting a person may be happier in another neighborhood using a justification that is based on race, national origin, gender, or a similar point – it’s still barred by the Fair Housing Act
Federal Fair Housing Act Exemptions
There are a few exemptions outlined in the Fair Housing Act. If a unit or house is considered exempt, the requirements set forth in the federal law don’t apply.
For example, if a landlord owns a building with four or fewer units and is a resident of one of the units, they are exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act rules. The same applies to single-family houses if the owner doesn’t use a broker and owns three or fewer such homes at a time.
There is also a Fair Housing Act shared living exception. Essentially, if a renter was going to occupy the same housing unit as the owner – such as one shared apartment or home – the rules don’t apply.
Now, it’s important to note that state or city laws may apply even if federal ones don’t. State and city laws can expand – but not reduce – what’s required at the federal level, essentially making regulations more comprehensive or applying them to additional housing opportunity-related people and entities.
Common Questions About the Fair Housing Act
What Did the Fair Housing Act of 1968 Do?
Also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlines rules governing the renting and financing of homes. The goal was to end discriminatory practices that made housing difficult for some members of the population to access or that led to cost differences based on a person’s membership in a particular demographic group.
What Does Fair Housing Mean?
In the simplest sense, “fair housing” refers to the ability to choose housing without any discrimination-based hindrances. Essentially, it means having an equal opportunity to secure a rental unit or purchase a property regardless of a person’s membership in specific demographic groups.
What Is the Purpose of the Fair Housing Act?
The purpose of the Fair Housing Act was to combat housing discrimination. It contains rules that apply to rentals and owned homes, all of which are designed to ensure equal access to housing regardless of a person’s race, gender, national origin, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion.
Who Enforces the Federal Fair Housing Act?
On the federal level, the Fair Housing Act is enforced by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), typically through its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). Along with ensuring compliance with the Fair Housing Act, the office oversees specific housing programs and educates consumers regarding the regulations.
NY Fair Housing Act
New York state fair housing laws – through the NYS Human Rights Law – build upon the federal Fair Housing Act. Along with all of the protections above, it expands the number of protected groups to include military status, lawful source of income, creed, and age.
Additionally, it alters some of the exceptions. For instance, while the federal Fair Housing Act exempts owner-occupied builds with four or fewer units, the NYS Human Rights Law only exempts one- or two-family owner-occupied buildings.