HUD is out with its most recent data concerning the number of discrimination complaints filed under our federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). In 2012, HUD investigated 1,817 cases while its partner entities investigated just under 7,000 cases. Those numbers are down a little from 2011 and 2010. When added to the number of complaints investigated by private fair housing groups, however, the total number of fair housing complaints filed is up to over 28,000.
Fair housing advocates take the view that a significant number of housing discrimination cases go unreported because people either do not know the law or they are afraid of the system. Conversely, management representatives will report that a large majority of the reported discrimination claims receive No Probable Cause dismissals and are really filed by individuals who are disgruntled for one reason or another having nothing whatsoever to do with unlawful discrimination. Where is the truth? I have my opinion, but I will let you decide for yourself.
For what it is worth, claims alleging discrimination against those with a disability make up the largest percentage of cases (in 2012 over 55%). Race is second at over 25% of the complaints, with national origin coming in third at just under 23% of the cases.
Furthermore, I have written many times that those of us in the professional apartment management arena must know the state (and local) laws in which we operate. To illustrate, while the federal FHA contains the seven familiar protected classes, you need to know that:
21 states (plus DC) include sexual orientation as an additional protected class: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
· 12 states (again plus DC) include source of income as a protected class in their fair housing laws: California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
What does all this mean? HUD and its partner entities are out there looking to file discrimination complaints. You must know the laws where you operate properties. And remember there are also city and county anti-discrimination laws that you must follow. Because if you do not, you will really need to see a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.