Previous blog entries have reviewed the seven protected classes included in the Fair Housing Act (FHA): race, color, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, and religion. Knowing the state and/or local laws in your jurisdiction are also important as additional requirements (and protected classes) can come into play. One of the most common queries I see concerns "source of income" — in other words, must management accept a housing voucher for some or all of the rent for an apartment?
At last count, there were at least 14 states (and Washington, D.C.) which include protection against discrimination in housing rentals based on an applicant’s source of income. These jurisdictions include: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin. This list continue to grow. Additionally, many counties and cities throughout the United States have enacted ordinances protecting source of income. For example, while source of income is not a protected class in Illinois, it is a protected class in Cook County, IL (which includes Chicago).
If your apartment community is located in an area in which source of income is a protected class, a housing provider cannot discriminate against an applicant if he or she utilizes a housing voucher. In this circumstance, management must factor in the voucher and adjust the scoring criteria before making a determination as to whether the applicant qualifies to rent the apartment in question.
To avoid a discrimination action inadvertently brought against management because you turned away an applicant with a voucher in a source of income jurisdiction, it is important to identify if your state, city, or county classifies source of income as a protected class in housing and ensure you implement a policy that adds in the amount of the voucher when processing the application.
Just a Thought.
Article by Karin Corbett.