Fair Housing Protected Classes In Idaho
Congress passed the Federal Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. The Act illegalizes discrimination in housing matters based on 7 protected classes. The Fair Housing Act protected classes are the following:
- National origin
- Familial status
The Act aims to ensure every American citizen is treated fairly and equally regarding housing sales, renting and lending.
Over the years, different states have made varying amendments to the Federal Fair Housing Act. For example, the state of Idaho’s Fair Housing act prohibits discrimination based on sex, color, race, religion, disability and national origin.
Examples of Housing Discrimination in Mortgage Financing, Housing Sales and Renting
The following are examples of how mortgage lenders, home sellers and landlords can discriminate against their clients:
1. Mortgage Discrimination
This is a practice in which lending institutions, such as banks, deny loans to applicants based on a protected characteristic. In qualifying borrowers, they use unfair, deceptive, abusive or predatory loan terms.
The following are some examples of what the Idaho Fair Housing laws prohibit insurance professionals from doing:
- Setting different rates, fees and points based on the borrower’s characteristics.
- Denying financing to a borrower based on their race, color or any other Fair Housing Act protected categories.
- Scrutinizing a candidate’s loan applications differently based on a protected class.
- Lowering appraisals artificially in certain areas.
2. Housing Sales Discrimination
The Idaho Fair Housing Act prohibits homeowners from doing certain things when selling a property.
An example would be publishing an ad that writes: “Home suitable for singles.” According to the Idaho Fair Housing Act, familial status is a protected class, and such a statement would be considered familial status discrimination.
The following are other statements that can be deemed to be discriminative:
- Refusal by the seller to do any negotiations with a potential buyer.
- The seller steering a potential buyer away to a different neighborhood that they “think” would be suitable for them.
- The seller dissuading a buyer from coming to view the unit.
- Stating that a unit is unavailable when, in fact, it is.
- Lying or making exaggerations for the sole purpose of discouraging a buyer from buying the property.
3. Renting Discrimination
As a landlord, the Idaho Fair Housing Act bars you from making certain statements or asking specific questions when qualifying residents.
When listing your rental, the following are statements to absolutely omit from your ad:
- Unit suitable for a mature couple.
- Ideal for a single professional.
- A female would be preferred.
- Not soundproof.
- White individuals preferred.
Each of these statements infringes on the Idaho Fair Housing laws.
Resident screening is a crucial part of the leasing process, undoubtedly. That said, there are certain questions that you must avoid at all costs. They include:
- Are you gay?
- Are you married?
- How do you find the Church in the neighborhood to be?
- How many kids do you have?
- What is your first language?
- Where are your parents born?
- Are you white or Hispanic?
These questions all discriminate against a certain class of people.
Penalties for Violating the Idaho Fair Housing Act
Early this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published civil penalty amounts for people or entities found to have violated the Act. The new inflation-adjusted fines apply to violations committed on or after April 6, 2020.
First-time, second-time and third-time violators risk being fined up to $21,410, $53,524 and $107,050, respectively. This was an increase from the previous fines, which were $21,039, $52,596 and $105,194 for first-time, second-time and third-time violators.
Tips for Landlords to Avoid Violating the Idaho Fair Housing Act
Tip #1: Have the same qualifying standards for residents.
When screening residents, make sure to avoid questions outside your typical qualifying standards. Prepare a list of questions that you will ask every prospective resident. This is paramount, as asking different residents different questions can amount to discrimination.
Here’s an illustration:
While you may be able to run a credit check on a resident (with their consent), you can’t be selective in doing so. You can’t perform it, for instance, on someone of a certain race and not do so for someone of another race.
Tip #2: Avoid asking a resident whether they have ever been arrested.
A distinct difference exists between being arrested and being convicted of a crime. While you can ask a potential resident whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, asking them if they have ever been arrested is a big no-no.
Additionally, many states, including Idaho, prohibits discrimination against a person based on their conviction. The only exception is if their conviction influences their ability to be a good resident.
Tip #3: Avoid asking personal questions.
Asking a prospective resident about their personal life is a recipe for a discrimination claim. So, avoid questions that touch on a prospective resident’s…
- Sexual orientation. For example: are you gay?
- Age: You look young, how old are you?
- Source of income: Where do you work?
- Marital status: Are you married?
To be on the safe side, focus on describing what makes the property unique.
Tip #4: Don’t suggest in your rental ads that you prefer certain residents over others.
Avoid using discriminative statements when crafting your rental ads. As innocent as they may sound, some statements are a big no-no.
For example, promoting your property as the perfect place for a “young professional” may come off as discriminating. Specifically, it would sound discriminating for a prospective resident with a family.
Tip #5: Be a professional landlord.
Discrimination is not only limited to the resident screening process. It can also occur during the day-to-day running of your rental.
To avoid a discrimination claim, treat all residents fairly and equally. Such as when responding to maintenance requests, make sure you do so for all residents.
Tip #6: Consider hiring professionals.
Are you a first-time landlord? If so, chances are that you lack the knowledge and skills to run your property effectively. Hiring an experienced property management company would be in your best interests.
Do you still require more help? If so, Five Star Property Management can help. We are a full-service property management company servicing the areas of Pocatello and the city of Chubbuck.