Landlords in Pennsylvania, as well as across the United States, have a legal and ethical obligation to follow landlord-tenant laws. This includes the Fair Housing Act and related state laws, such as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which address housing discrimination.
In this blog post, we will elaborate on the Fair Housing Act, and some best practices rental property owners can take on.
What Is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law in the United States that aims to prevent discrimination in housing based on certain protected characteristics. These protected characteristics include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status (presence of children under 18 or pregnant women).
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the federal level enforces the Fair Housing Act. However, many states also have their own fair housing laws that provide additional protections beyond federal law.
Pennsylvania is one such state that has its own fair housing laws to complement the FHA. In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) serves as the state's fair housing law.
The PHRA prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap or disability, and the use, handling, or training of support or guide animals for disability.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) enforces the PHRA. This agency investigates housing discrimination complaints and takes appropriate actions to remedy law violations.
It's important to note that while the federal FHA and the Pennsylvania PHRA cover many similar aspects, there might be differences in how these laws are interpreted and enforced and in the specific protections they provide.
5 Best Practices for Fair Housing Compliance in PA
When renting a property in Pennsylvania, it's important to be aware of the Fair Housing Act and its provisions to ensure that your tenants are not accidentally subjected to housing discrimination and are treated fairly and equally. Here are some key factors to consider:
1. Equal Treatment
The FHA establishes legal and ethical obligations for landlords and property managers, as well as anyone selling a home, to treat tenants fairly and without discrimination. Equal treatment contributes to an environment where individuals can live and work together without fear of bias or prejudice.
When individuals have confidence that they will be treated fairly in the housing market, it encourages them to seek housing, which benefits both tenants and landlords actively.
Equal access to housing helps individuals and families secure housing in neighborhoods with better schools, job opportunities, and community resources. This, in turn, can lead to improved economic prospects and overall well-being.
2. Consistent Application Process
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) reinforces the importance of treating all applicants consistently and fairly.
Landlords should establish clear, objective criteria for evaluating applications and ensure that these criteria are consistently applied to all applicants to avoid any perception or reality of housing discrimination.
The FHA prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on protected characteristics. If the application process is inconsistent, it could be used as a way to mask discriminatory practices. A consistent process helps ensure that decisions are made based on objective criteria rather than bias.
A consistent application and tenant screening process helps protect landlords from potential lawsuits alleging housing discrimination. If landlords treat applicants differently based on protected characteristics, they may be more vulnerable to legal challenges.
3. Refusing Tenancy
Landlords have the right to refuse tenancy for legitimate reasons. However, it's crucial to ensure that such decisions are based on objective criteria, consistently applied, and free from any form of discrimination.
The Fair Housing Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibit housing discrimination and set guidelines for making housing-related decisions fairly and without bias.
Landlords should consult legal counsel or fair housing experts if they are unsure about any aspect of their refusal to tenancy process. It's important to stay up-to-date with fair housing laws to ensure compliance.
4. Reasonable Modifications
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires landlords and housing providers to make reasonable accommodations and modifications for individuals with disabilities to ensure equal access to housing.
These accommodations and modifications are intended to remove barriers that might otherwise prevent individuals with disabilities from enjoying and using the property.
The landlord must respond to the request for a reasonable modification in a timely manner. If the modification is feasible and necessary, the landlord should work with the tenant to discuss the specifics and seek an agreement.
While the tenant is responsible for the cost of the modification itself, the landlord generally cannot charge the tenant more than the existing security deposit for the cost of restoring the property to its original condition after the tenant moves out, unless the modification causes damage beyond normal wear and tear.
5. Familial Status
Familial status is one of the protected categories under the Fair Housing Act. This means that it is illegal for housing providers to discriminate against families with children in any aspect of housing, including rental, sale, financing, and terms or conditions of housing.
It's important for landlords and housing providers in Pennsylvania to be aware of both the federal FHA and the state's PHRA when dealing with familial status.
By adhering to these laws, housing providers can ensure that families with children have equal access to housing opportunities and are not subjected to discriminatory practices.
In summary, landlords in Pennsylvania should follow the Fair Housing Act and related laws to ensure legal compliance, promote fairness and equality, and contribute to a just and inclusive housing market.
Property managers like TrustArt Realty act as a bridge between landlords and tenants, ensuring that all parties' rights and responsibilities are respected.
By being knowledgeable about fair housing laws and proactive in their approach, we help landlords maintain compliance, create a fair housing environment, and reduce the risk of legal issues. Contact TrustArt Realty today to learn more!
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.