Skilled Advisers Explain What Landlords Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

Experienced Atlanta attorneys defend landlords against discrimination claims

Established in 1968, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits landlords from discriminating against members of certain protected groups. Since then, states and municipalities have enacted similar legislation, creating regulations that can cause serious problems for landlords even if they’re making every effort to follow the law. At Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood & Williams, P.A., in Atlanta, we are experienced attorneys who counsel residential landlords on FHA compliance and represent them in claims brought by individuals alleging bias.

Georgia firm counsels clients on advertising rules and court matters

As leaders among Georgia landlord-tenant attorneys, we are dedicated to providing effective defense against all types of housing discrimination complaints by making sure that property owners are aware of key aspects of the FHA and related Georgia rules, such as:

  • Advertising — Landlords cannot issue advertisements that indicate a preference for, or limitation on, any group protected under the law.
  • Actions that give rise to claims — Refusing to lease an available property, charging different rent to people of different backgrounds, intimidating current or prospective tenants and other actions could lead to penalties for the owner or manager of a rental residence.
  • Responding to complaints — In lawsuits, as well as filings made with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity, we outline the relevant procedures for clients and investigate allegations thoroughly to identify evidence to counter complainants’ claims.  

Whether you’re looking to establish internal guidelines to guard against an FHA claim or have been accused of misconduct, we are dedicated to achieving your objectives.

Does the Fair Housing Act apply to all landlords?

Most landlords are subject to the standards set forth in the Fair Housing Act, but someone who rents part of their residence is usually exempt as long as there are four units or fewer on the property. However, no one who rents out residential property may use advertising that violates prohibitions on discrimination.

Who is protected under the FHA, and what allegations can trigger a claim?

Various groups are protected under the FHA. It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, disability, parenthood or pregnancy. Likewise, several different types of purported misconduct can prompt an FHA claim, including improper tenant screening, unwarranted tenant eviction, releasing advertising that is designed to exclude a certain group and offering different terms based on someone’s protected personal characteristic. Many cities also have regulations that bar specific types of discrimination. For example, in addition to the other categories, Atlanta does not allow adverse housing decisions to be based on someone’s age, gender identity or sexual orientation.

How are FHA violations penalized?

If an administrative law judge finds that a landlord has violated the FHA, numerous different penalties can be applied. These include requiring a respondent to provide compensation to a claimant for damages, such as the cost of finding a different residence; ordering equitable relief that forces the landlord to take corrective action; and imposing a fine that can run up to $16,000 for an initial violation.

What types of disability accommodations are required under the FHA?

When a plaintiff with a physical or mental impairment requires a reasonable modification to a rental property in order to gain full enjoyment of the premises and is willing to pay for the change, the landlord has to permit the modification. Of course, the question of what is “reasonable” can be complicated, so it’s important to gain the perspective of an attorney who is familiar with similar situations.

Contact a knowledgeable Georgia lawyer to discuss a Fair Housing Act issue

Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood & Williams, P.A. assists Atlanta-area landlords in matters relating to Fair Housing Act and similar state and local regulations. To speak with one of our Atlanta lawyers, please call 404-633-5114 or contact us online for a free consultation.      

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