Fair Housing Q&A

Monday, October 15, 2012

Q: A woman with two toddlers came to view one of my vacant units. When I told her that my building did not have any other families with children and that the nearby schools are not very good, she said that I was discriminating against her and her children. Since I was merely stating the facts, how can that be discrimination?

A: The fair housing laws make it illegal for landlords to steer or to make statements of preference towards prospective tenants based on their personal characteristics. Your statements were perceived as discriminatory towards families with children because they gave the rental seeker a sense that families with children are not welcome. Tenants have the right to choose where they want to live and your rental decision must be based on their qualifications as a tenant, not on where you think it would be best for them to live.

Q: I have a no pet policy in my building. One of my tenants asked to have a dog in her apartment and showed me a doctor’s note confirming she needs her dog for medical reasons. The tenant does not seem sick to me, do I have to grant this request?

A: Yes. According to the fair housing laws a landlord must grant reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities as long as the accommodation is reasonable and necessary to affording tenants with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwelling. An accommodation to waiver the no-pet policy for her medically prescribed service animal would be considered reasonable and by law, should be granted.

Q: One of my tenants recently informed me that the on-site manager has repeatedly asked her on dates, and frequently visits her unit at all hours. The tenant says that she has tried to let the manager know that she is not interested but he does not seem to understand. Could I be held liable for his actions?

A: Under the fair housing laws, the manager’s actions may be considered sexual harassment. If a tenant feels that the manager is sexually harassing her, both the property owner and manager are legally liable.  Property owners are responsible for the actions of any agents he or she employs.