If You Don’t Already Know the Answer . . .
We really need to talk! The Federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) was passed to help ensure that both rental applicants and current tenants of a landlord are not discriminated against due to certain characteristics they may possess (i.e., people who possess the characteristics outlined in the law cannot be held to higher/different standards than any other tenant/tenant applicant). People having the characteristics outlined in the law are said to be a part of a “protected class” for housing purposes. The protected class status of tenants and tenant applicants means that landlords and property managers cannot base their decisions on any of these factors:
- Color (skin, eyes, hair, etc.).
- National origin
- Sex (gender)
- Disability (physical, mental, emotional)
- Familial status (the presence of children under the age of 18 in the home).
So, somebody cannot, for example, be denied housing (or held to different qualification standards) because they are a white/male, black/female, of Bulgarian ancestry, practice Zoroastrianism, have a small child in the home, or are wheelchair-bound.
Simply put, landlords and property managers must apply the exact same standards to everybody applying to a particular property. Understand that protected class status does not mean that landlords must favor members of a protected class—no, members of a protected class are to be treated the same as anyone else, which means that landlords can legally reject applications, evict tenants in violation of lease agreements, and take other action against tenants if there are legitimate reasons that are unrelated to any protected class status.
Other Things For Sarasota Rental Owners To Consider
The Fair Housing Act and its protected classes are not the only fair housing issues that landlords and property managers need to be aware of. Other relevant laws include:
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Florida Statute 83, Part II—Residential Tenancies
Also, keep in mind that many local counties and cities overlay their own housing laws and regulations on top of federal and state requirements, thus further restricting the actions of landlords and property managers and expanding the rights of rental applicants and tenants.
Property owners and managers are expected to be knowledgeable of and in compliance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations within their jurisdictions, and ignorance of any law is never an excuse for non-compliance with that law. Many well-intentioned, yet unaware rental investors have found themselves running afoul of the law and facing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal liability as a result. If you are managing properties and dealing with tenants and leasing, then you must keep yourself fully informed and in total compliance at all times, or run the risk of financial loss and possible bankruptcy.
One Way To Mitigate The Risk Of Non-Compliance With Fair Housing Laws
One way that many smart Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, and North Port, FL area rental owners mitigate their risk of running afoul of fair housing laws is to hire a professional property management company to handle the leasing, ongoing property management, and tenant communications.
Savvy owners hire professional property managers for several reasons:
A professional property manager understands the laws with respect to tenancies and leasing. They have systems and procedures in place to avoid running afoul of the law. They regularly attend training and conferences that keep them abreast of changes and trends in the law.
Do-it-yourself landlords put themselves at great risk unless they commit to ongoing self-education in all areas of law—federal, state, and local—that touch on housing and tenancies in any way. Equally troubling are the inexperienced and unprofessional, so-called “property managers” (oftentimes, real estate sales agents trying to do property management on the side for extra cash—often without their broker’s direct knowledge) who dupe unsuspecting residential rental owners into turning over their properties and tenants without a full disclosure of their lack of knowledge and training.
Discrimination based on any of the “protected class” attributes—Race, Color, Religion, National Origin, Sex, Disability, Familial Status—is strictly prohibited under the U.S. Fair Housing Act. In addition to the Fair Housing Act, numerous additional federal, state, and municipal laws, rules, and regulations govern the activities of landlords vis-a-vis tenants and tenant applicants. In order to avoid liability and legal action, it is vitally important that residential rental property owners and/or their property managers are knowledgeable in and regularly updated on all aspects of landlord/tenant law as it relates to fair-housing issues. In order to limit liability, smart investors choose to hire professional property managers to lease and manage their rentals.
About the Author
John Michailidis, JD, is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and is the Broker/Managing-Member of Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee, a Sarasota, FL based residential property management company. Real Property Management of Sarasota & Manatee provides both Full-Service and Lease-Only services to greater Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, and North Port area landlords. If you own residential investment real estate anywhere in Manatee or Sarasota counties, do feel free to reach out to our team at 941-216-0005, or through our website.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.