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Fair Housing and the Supreme Court Ruling for the LGBTQ+Community

Fair Housing and the Supreme Court Ruling for the LGBTQ+Community
In line with the Supreme Court’s decision regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, President Biden signed an executive order earlier this year mandating that all federal agencies review the ruling and make needed adjustments. So what can property management companies expect? Should we wait on updated guidelines from HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) or should we make changes now to avoid any appearance of housing discrimination against LGBTQ+ prospects?   A Quick Legal Recap President Biden signed an Executive Order on January 25, 2021, requiring protections of LGBTQ+ people in housing, health care, and education. The Executive Order cites the recent Supreme Court decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, that held that the prohibition against sex discrimination in the Equal Employment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Executive Order requires the applicable federal agencies, including HUD, to promulgate actions consistent with Bostock and the various civil rights laws. This Executive Order will result in new HUD regulations explaining the protections of LGBTQ+ persons under the Fair Housing Act.     A New Protected Category? There is always confusion with any change. With this new ruling questions have been raised as to whether or not this ruling meant a new protected category. To clarify, we do not have a new protected category, rather we now have an expanded protected category of sex. Under this expansion, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation or the gender they are p......
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Fair Housing and Internal Employee Communication

Fair Housing and Internal Employee Communication
Internal employee communication is essential to keep an office running smoothly and fair housing compliant. Without proper internal communication, staff can find themselves struggling to know what to do. Consider the following scenarios. Maintenance Work Request We all know that fair housing best practice is to complete maintenance requests in the order they were received except in the case of emergencies. But did you know that what can be considered an emergency can significantly vary from property to property? As a result, a new hire can quickly become confused as to how to properly handle maintenance work requests if the property’s policy isn’t clearly communicated. This could result in work orders being handled out of order and open the property up to a discrimination or fair housing complaint.   Internal communication of policies and procedures is an absolute must, especially when it comes to new hires. Supervision is also a key component; making sure that if a staff member has a question, there is someone there to help. Along with this, every staff member should have access to adequate documentation as well as regular training. Keeping these lines of internal communication available, aids in workplace compliance.  Callback Policies Callback policies are another place where fair housing compliance can become an issue if there isn’t proper internal communication. Today’s properties face the challenge of sorting through multiple contact points, and phone, email, text, and web-based communication are all part of most properties’ daily communications.    Just as with maintenance requests, fair housing best prac......
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Fair Housing Laws and What They Mean to You

Fair Housing Laws and What They Mean to You
Tenant screening has long been standard in the rental application process. Background checks and reference requests come as no surprise to renting hopefuls in this day and age. They understand it is the responsibility of the landlord and is also important to the overall health and quality of a property management business. However, at times, and as with anything, there have been people who’ve taken the filtering process a bit too far. Of course, landlords have every right to be discerning with their decision-making; but, according to the Fair Housing Act, renters also have rights. They have the right to be considered, fairly and impartially, for a real estate transaction. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can agree with everything stated here and still somehow find yourself in hot water in the eyes of the law. Read on to understand more about Fair Housing Laws, how they apply to you, and how you can take action to protect and improve your business.   What is the Fair Housing Act? While many remember the 60’s as a time of peace, love, and flowerchildren, the decade also marks a period of civil unrest. The Civil Rights Movement of the time can be credited with a lot of the landmark anti-discrimination legislature that still governs business practices today. This includes the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act. Enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, the law prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of person’s status in a pa......
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The Supreme Court's Ruling on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Supreme Court Ruling on sexual orientation and gender identity     In a very recent decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590, U.S. ___ (2020), (“Bostock”) the U.S. Supreme Court expanded its interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but not explicitly on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Court has determined in this decision that Title VII’s protection of employees on the basis of sex also protects employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Employment discrimination cases are filed and litigated at a much higher rate than housing cases, which is why courts often apply the legal analyses from employment cases to Fair Housing Act cases.  This decision is so important to FHI’s Community because like Title VII, the Fair Housing Act also prohibits sex discrimination. Therefore, we can confidently assume that courts in future FHA cases will also extend legal protections to individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.     The facts of this case were not disputed and involved the termination of three employees by three different employers. Two employees were fired because they are gay. The third employee was fired because she presented as a male when hired, but later informed her employer she planned to live and work as a woman. The case reached the Supreme Court due to conflicting decisions from  three Circuit Courts.  The Eleventh Circuit held that Title VII does not prohibit employers from firing employe......
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Could You be in Violation of Fair Housing Laws Without Even Realizing It?

b2ap3_thumbnail_RCauley.jpgAs we all well know, the Fair Housing Act prohibits any type of discrimination from Real Estate Professionals when choosing who to rent their property or unit to in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, family status or national origin, and in some counties: section 8 voucher status (tenantsunion.org). But what about disparate impact?   Disparate impact is the legal theory that people of certain races and ethnicities are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. This theory was previously used in regards to employment, but in recent years has moved into the real estate industry as well. The theory states that the use of criminal records for tenant screening purposes has a disparate impact on certain minorities who have been disproportionately represented in the legal system, and who therefore have criminal records that could be used to determine that they should not be rented to. Fair Housing Advocates argue that in effect, while you may be following all Fair Housing Laws, and screening every applicant, you could be inadvertently discriminating against certain minorities (Wikipedia). The Landlord Times gives a great example: “…a property management company has a policy of charging a set rental amount for the first three residents in a household, plus $100 per month for each additional resident. This policy, although applied equally to all applicants and residents, will have a disproportionately negative effect on families with children, and thus likely violates fair housing laws. Similarly, a policy of denying rental to everyone who has any criminal recor......
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