By: Mary Shepherd, Partner Family Coordinator
“Fair housing” is the right that individuals have for equal housing opportunities. These rights are protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act protects the right of an individual to choose where he or she wants to live without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, family status, or disability. The Ohio Housing Law provides additional protection of these rights based upon ancestry and military status.
The Fair Housing Act was created with the belief that every person has the right to rent a home, purchase a home, or get a mortgage on a home without being afraid of discrimination. This groundbreaking legislation was established in 1968, one week after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Fair Housing Act states that it is illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing. However, there are several exemptions to this law. Single-family homes rented without the use of a real estate agent or advertising are exempt from the Federal Fair Housing Act as long as the private landlord/owner doesn’t own more than three homes at the time. Multifamily housing of two to four units, where one of the units is owner-occupied, is also exempt from fair housing laws. Apartments of four units or less are also exempt if the owner lives in one of the units. An organization that restricts its membership, such as a private club, may provide restricted housing to its members, as long as it doesn’t offer housing to the general public.
Mortgage lending agencies must obey the Fair Housing Act. Lending agencies cannot set different terms, conditions or requirements, refuse to make information about the loan available, or refuse to make a loan based on discrimination due to race, color religion, sex, national origin, family status, disability, ancestry or military status. Individuals or agencies cannot make discriminatory statements or advertise property excluding a protected class.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for enforcing the Fair Housing Act. Individuals who think their rights have been violated may write a letter or phone the HUD office nearest to where they reside. Filing a complaint with HUD should be done as soon as possible or within one year after the discrimination allegedly occurred or ended. Report the following:
- • Your name and address
- • The name and address of the person your complaint is against
- • The address or other identification of the housing involved
- • A short description of the alleged violation
- • The date(s) of the alleged violation
HUD will notify the individual filing the complaint in writing when the complaint is accepted. HUD will also notify the alleged violator and allow him/her time to submit a written answer to the complaint. HUD will investigate the complaint and determine whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that the accused violated the Fair Housing Act. HUD will notify the individual who filed and the accused if they cannot complete their investigation within 100 days of filing and provide reasons for the delay. Summit County’s Fair Housing Contact Service is located at 441 Wolf Ledges Pkwy, Suite 200, Akron OH 44311 and can be reached at 330-376-6191.
Equal access to housing and homeownership opportunities is the cornerstone of Fair Housing. Equal access to affordable homeownership opportunities is also what Habitat for Humanity is all about.