As the calendar turns to April, it is HUD’s annual Fair Housing Month. And this time HUD opens with an aggressive public campaign with a focus on “enforcement and education and outreach efforts and the work of its fair housing partners.” While some in the apartment management world would argue perhaps HUD’s efforts would be better focused on education as opposed to enforcement, we need to know that HUD’s public campaign is driven by enforcement and penalties as contrasted with outreach and education. All too often I see HUD view management as the opponent in fair housing matters when more likely we should be business partners working to get it right together.

As readers of this space well know, we here at your friendly neighborhood Fair Housing Defense blog feel differently. Education is key. Training is critical. That’s why this month, we’re making that our focus, starting with a brief history and explanation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), followed by a few entries on important cases and amendments that have shaped today’s FHA.

The FHA was enacted by Congress seven days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Intended as a follow up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the FHA initially prohibited discrimination in connection with the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, and national origin. Gender was added as a protected class in 1974. Disability (handicap) and familial status were added in 1988. To be sure, states and many localities also include additional protected class (such as source of income and/or sexual orientation) in their laws. In addition to the statute, through the Code of Federal Regulations, HUD has put forward an expansive set of rules and regulations that implement our FHA.

So, do we see overt acts of housing discrimination? Sometimes. Not too often. Curiously omitted from HUD’s materials, however, are the reams of cases which receive a No Probable Cause Dismissal as they were filed by a disgruntled applicant, resident, or former resident who was unhappy for one reason or another. Indeed, more likely in today’s world is that discrimination complaints arise when a well meaning owner/manager or realtor advertises in a manner that someone claims violates the FHA. Likewise, as evidenced by HUD’s new educational photo and by many of the questions we receive, it is becoming more common for complaints to be filed by people who require service animals and who see that an apartment complex does not allow pets. A service animal, of course, is not a pet.

These latter forms of discrimination are far less obvious and far more problematic for people in our industry. That’s why education is so important, and that’s why we’re here.

Just A Thought.