Law360 published an article I wrote (shameless plug here) concerning 47 years of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and current Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development fair housing enforcement and investigation trends. The article generated a question that I wanted to address. Our federal FHA contains seven protected class: race, color, national origin, and religion (which were all contained in the initial 1968 law), sex (added in 1974) as well as disability and familial status (added in 1988). My reader wanted to know if only following those protected classes would be enough to avoid a housing discrimination complaint? The answer to that question is most likely no. There is no federal preemption with respect to protected classes.
While indeed the FHA is the law of the land, many individual states (as well as various cities and counties) have adopted their own fair housing laws which include additional protected classes, such as source of income, sexual orientation, marital status, occupation, status as a student, member of the military, and/or age. What this means is if you operate in an area covered by additional fair housing laws, you need to know the laws in your specific jurisdiction.
The good news is that you can find out what laws apply in your jurisdiction via an online search or by checking with a lawyer like me. Again, it will not be a defense to say that “well, I just did not know the law.” As professional apartment management, we are tasked with knowing (and following) applicable law. Hope that helps.
Just a Thought.