Your humble Fair Housing Defense Blog editor gets questions from readers time to time. Which is good. Some I can’t answer off the cuff – such as “[i]t will just take a minute, but can you tell me how much my claim is worth?” Obviously, I can’t do that. And remember, I am the guy who represents professional apartment ownership/management. Another question I regularly get concerns if a specific property is covered under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). The easy answer is that if you are in the apartment management business, then your property is covered by the law.
Now, in some limited circumstances, the FHA exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units (commonly called the “Mrs. Murphy exemption”), single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, as well as housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. However, even if you try to use the Mrs. Murphy exemption — you need to check with a lawyer like me to see if a state or local law might apply. For example, in Pennsylvania this type of home would not be exempt under state law unless the dwelling contains only two units, with one being owner occupied. With respect to the exclusion for a single family sold or rented without use of a broker — some states do not include this exemption in their law.
Also, I am not aware of exemptions to the advertising provision in the FHA which provides you cannot make, print or publish a discriminatory statement. Similarly, there are no exemptions from the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits all racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property.
Now, a property can qualify as housing for older persons and claim an exemption from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if: 1) HUD has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a federal, state or local government program; 2) it is 100% occupied by persons 62 or older; or 3) it houses at least one person 55 or older in at least 80% of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons 55 or older. You might want to check with a lawyer like me if your property wishes to make these types of certifications.
Hope that helps.
Just A Thought.