Landlords in Pennsylvania have many obligations under the Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law. One of these obligations is affording tenants respect and treating them fairly in accordance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, forbids discrimination in the buying, renting, and financing of housing. The following is a guide to the Fair Housing Act in Pennsylvania.
What Led to the Fair Housing Act’s Creation?
The Fair Housing Act was passed by congress in 1968. Its goal was to eliminate discrimination in housing on the basis of certain protected classes.
Prior to its passage, there were two pieces of legislation aimed at stamping out discriminatory practices in housing. The first piece of legislation was the Rumford Fair Housing Act, passed in California on September 20, 1963.
The Rumford Fair Housing Act was passed by California Legislature to help end racial discrimination by landlords and property managers who were refusing to sell or rent to people of color.
A year later the piece of legislation that was passed was the Civil Rights Act and its purpose was to stamp out discrimination in federally funded programs and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and nationality. But even with all these laws, housing discrimination was still a major issue, and it’s for that reason that the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968.
What are the Protected Classes Listed Under the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Act?
The Federal FHA applies to all 50 U.S. states. The act protects tenants and housing buyers on the basis of 7 protected classes. The classes are race, color, religion, nationality, sex, familial status, and disability.
There are also some states that have passed legislation to add even more classes to the original list. Pennsylvania is one of these states. The statewide protections include age and use of a service animal.
What is the Government Agency Tasked with Enforcing the Fair Housing Act?
The government agency tasked with handling housing discrimination cases is the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission. The agency covers discrimination not only in housing, but also in employment, education, commercial property, and public accommodations.
What are Examples of Discriminatory Acts?
As a landlord, there are certain actions that can lead you to potential legal issues with your tenant. The following are some examples:
- Refusing to rent to a tenant due to their race or color
- Falsely denying the availability of a unit
- Setting different terms and conditions for tenants on the basis of any of the protected classes
- Charging a disabled tenant an additional pet fee or failing to make reasonable accommodations and modifications that a disabled tenant may need in order to enjoy the rental like other tenants would
- Including certain discriminatory statements in the rental ad
- Harassing a tenant who is a member of a protected class
- Steering a tenant away to particular areas or other types of the house on account of their race, color, or any other protected class
- Threatening to report a tenant to immigration services so as to intimidate the tenant from exercising any of their rights
- Retaliating against a tenant for lodging a discrimination complaint against you
Who Exactly is Prohibited from Engaging in Housing Discrimination?
The Fair Housing Act outlaws discrimination by the following groups:
- Property owners
- Property managers
- Real estate agents
- Insurance providers
The FHA applies basically to anyone or any entity that is involved in the process of securing housing.
Are There Exceptions to the Fair Housing Rules in Pennsylvania?
Although the FHA applies in most situations, some exceptions do exist. They are as follows:
- A dwelling that has four or fewer units and the owner occupies one of them
- A single-family house that is rented or sold without the use of brokerage services
- Housing communities for the elderly. However, the community must be able to meet one or more of the conditions described under the HUD
- Religious organizations that give preference to members
- Private clubs that give preference to members
How Can a Pennsylvania Landlord Avoid Potential Discrimination Lawsuits?
The following are some tips to help you avoid potential discrimination lawsuits from your tenant:
- Document Everything – This is especially important after any accusation. Make a detailed record of everything, including recent lease violations such as late rent payments.
- Have Consistent Policies – According to the FHA, landlords have a responsibility to treat all tenants equally and fairly. If you show any preference or limitation, you may find yourself in legal trouble.
- Be Professional in Your Interactions – Always maintain a professional demeanor regardless of the situation. This will make sure that the tenant has no solid complaints they can pursue against you.
- Be Mindful of What You Say – For example, it would be unlawful for you to ask a prospect what church they go to. Or, which county they are originally from.
- Hire a Property Management Company – A good property management firm will have the experience and policies to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all tenants.
Understanding the Fair Housing Laws at the state and federal levels will ensure that your rental property business doesn’t encounter any legal issues. As a landlord, you’ll also want to remain informed of the state’s security deposit laws, the legal eviction process, and leasing regulations.
Remaining informed of these laws can be difficult, for expert help in the Pennsylvania Fair Housing Act or property management, turn to the experts at Keyrenter BuxMont. We can take the stress out of managing your Doylestown investment property. Get in touch to learn more about property management services!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Laws change and therefore this content may not be updated at the time of your reading.