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Understanding Changes in Fair Housing
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Fair Housing is Changing – Are You?
 
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Do You Have A Fair Housing Policy?
With the ever growing number of fair housing claims against property owners, it is vital to have an internal policy to insulate yourself from liability. Here are three things you can do:
 
1. OUTLINE a standard operating procedure between your team, upper management, and legal counsel.

2.
IDENTIFY areas of special attention such as assistance animals and handicap parking.

3.
TRAIN your property management team re: fair housing issues.

 
Why Is A Fair Housing Policy Important?
An internal policy is important so you have procedures in place to handle reasonable accommodation requests from tenants and applicants. On-site managers need to be prepared because failure to properly respond is often considered a denial of the request. No matter how ridiculous a request may seem, your team should treat each one the same and not outright deny it until upper management has had a chance to review.
 
If a claim is filed against you, your risk is significantly increased without a policy in place. If you would like to have a policy drafted or reviewed, please contact our office and we can discuss with you in more detail.


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What Is Disparate Impact?
“Disparate Impact” is when there is a policy or practice that is neutral on its face, but is still found to have a discriminatory effect against a protected class.[1] It looks at not just the intent of a policy, but the consequences of it as well.[2]
 
For example, a property owner may require applicants to have full-time employment to be approved. Obviously, this is a sound business practice as it safeguards against potential delinquency down the road.  However, if an applicant is disabled and is unable to work full-time, this policy may be judged to have a discriminatory effect on disabled individuals, regardless of intent.
 
As with any fair housing violation, a finding that a property owner has engaged in discriminatory conduct, whether it was intended or not, could result in as high as a six-figure award (or greater) against them. Therefore, we strongly suggest having legal counsel review any policies that you have in effect or may be implementing in order to mitigate your fair housing exposure.

 

[1] The seven protected classes under the Federal Fair Housing Act are religion, race, color, national origin, sex, familial status and disability. States may have additional protected classes, such as Michigan, which also protects marital status and age for housing purposes, and Ohio, which protects ancestry and military status.
 
[2] On June 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court upheld disparate impact claims in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.
http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1371_m64o.pdf

 


DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is only meant to be a basic overview and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers should not act upon this information without the advice of an attorney. The contents may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication without the prior written consent of the Paletz Law Firm, PC.
 
Matthew I. Paletz
Matthew I. Paletz, Esq.
Matthew I. Paletz is the managing partner of the Paletz Law Firm, PC, located in Troy, Michigan. He is a 1995 graduate of the University of Michigan where he earned a B.A. in Communications. Mr. Paletz earned his J.D. from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 2002 and was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 2003. In 2014, he was admitted to the State Bar of Ohio. Mr. Paletz practices in General Civil Litigation with an emphasis in the practice areas of Landlord-Tenant, Collections, Fair Housing Defense of Property Owners, and Creditor’s Rights in Bankruptcy.

He can be contacted at:
(248) 593-9090
mpaletz@paletzlaw.com
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Our mailing address is:
3001 W. Big Beaver Rd., Suite 504
Troy, MI 48084
Phone: (248) 593-9090
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