I got a call from a client asking a question related to religion and the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"). The client was looking to increase the number of residents at a particular community by advertising a promotion in a local church flyer. In short, the ad would have offered church members a discount for renting an apartment at this community. He wanted to know if that raised a fair housing issue. He wanted me to tell him it was not a concern because he thought this would be a win-win for both the church and the apartment community.
Religion, of course, is one of the protected classes in the FHA. I had to tell my client that management cannot offer a promotion only to members of one specific religion. If we offer a special to rent our apartments, we must offer that rate to everyone who applies during the time of the promotion. In this case, my client’s well intentioned idea could have been viewed by some as violating the FHA because one religion would have been perceived to be favored over others as members of one church would have received a discounted rental rate. And the FHA requires that all religions be treated the same.
Advertising housing in church flyers or bulletins — something that seems exceptionally benign at first blush — opens up a number of FHA questions that management needs to be aware of. Or you may need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.