The real estate market in Winston Salem has experienced a considerable boost over the last year or so, with people increasingly choosing to settle down in areas like Ardmore, Country Club, and Buena Vista.
However, despite the increasing demand for Winston Salem rentals, owners, landlords, and property managers are finding themselves underprepared when it comes to the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a property owner, you need to be careful not to violate the Federal Fair Housing Laws while screening potential tenants or while allowing them to stay in their rental properties.
As trusted and experienced property managers in Winston Salem, here is our advice regarding fair housing for tenants and other important bylaws you need to know.
What is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act is a part of the Civil Rights act of 1968 and is governed by the US Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD). The Act is established to prevent housing-related discrimination by landlords and sellers.
It provides tenants and homebuyers with equal opportunities to buy or rent a house, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religious preference, disability, family status, or national orientation. The Act prohibits discrimination through terms in a lease agreement or advertising with a preference for a protected class.
Adhering to the FHA ensures that the landlord doesn’t conduct unintentional discrimination against a rental applicant, as discriminatory behavior can result in a potential lawsuit.
Fair Housing Regulations in Winston Salem
The Fair Housing Ordinance of the City of Winston Salem prohibits the owners and landlords from withholding a sale or lease from any eligible person. Rental managers, property owners, real estate agents, landlords, developers, and other parties selling or renting their properties are required to abide by the Federal Fair Housing Law.
It is also against the law to do the following:
- Refusing sale or rental of the house to a person based on their race, gender, family status, religious preference, disability, ethnicity, or national orientation
- Lying about property availability
- Eviction without reason
- Discriminating within the terms and conditions of a rental, like rent, security deposits, sale prices, or use of facilities
Fair Housing Tips for Your Winston Salem Property
- Avoid advertising for a specific group of people
While marketing your Winston Salem property, ensure that you do not accidentally end up sounding discriminatory in your search for qualified tenants. For instance, if you advertise your house as ‘excellent for a young couple, bachelors, or senior citizens,’ it could be perceived as discrimination against families with children. Focus on the amenities you offer and the advantages of the property, not on the ideal tenant you would wish to have.
- Have a fair and documented screening process
During the tenant screening process, make sure that the process adheres to the terms of the Fair Housing Act. Have a fixed process that treats every applicant equally, without favoring a selected group of people. You must maintain the same screening standards for every applicant and cannot conduct a separate screening for a specific group of people. Ask everybody the same questions and score prospective applicants in the same manner. Provide applicants with valid reasons for denial, if they weren’t approved.
- Do not deny access to housing opportunities
Steering a tenant is when a property manager or a landlord tries to deflect a potential renter belonging to a protected class from a particular neighborhood, or a property. This includes non-disclosure of all listings or assigning renters to a particular building or neighborhood. This is not an outright refusal, but it consists of efforts to deprive a tenant of getting a place in that community. For instance, if you were to not show a listing in a primarily white neighborhood to a person of color, that would be considered as denying access to a housing opportunity.
- Accommodate persons with disabilities
Rental investment owners and managers should know that there are additional protections regarding housing for renters with disabilities. This includes people with visual, hearing, and mobility impairments, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, drug addiction, or a history of disability. As a landlord, you cannot discriminate by making the house inaccessible to people with disabilities or refusing to make reasonable modifications that may be necessary for disabled people to live comfortably in your house.
- Get regular training on fair housing laws
Receiving regular training from qualified legal professionals in Winston Salem is necessary for property owners, as it helps them stay updated with the latest rules and regulations regarding tenancy laws. You can also hire professional property managers who can take care of your house and help you in case of a fair housing complaint or litigation.
Once the landlord and property managers are familiar with the Fair Housing Act and other federal and state laws, you can ensure that you properly screen and select your tenants. As a landlord, you have a legal responsibility to prevent discrimination and help the protected classes/communities receive equal housing opportunities.