As a rental property owner, you are expected to know the ins and outs of property management from day one. Things like: how often to inspect your home, when to perform routine maintenance, how to screen tenants, and even how to process an eviction. One of the trickiest parts of Atlanta rental property management is navigating federal and local housing law. The Fair Housing Act guarantees equal access to housing for specific sets of people who often experience housing discrimination. Violating the Fair Housing Act can lead to an investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and steep fines. What laws do you need to be aware of as a rental property owner? Read about the Fair Housing Act, local Georgia housing laws, and more below.
What is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1968. This law protects individuals from housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, family status, and disability. Everyone should have equal access to housing and violating the Fair Housing Act comes with serious consequences. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, if an investigation shows you have violated the Fair Housing Act you can be ordered to pay up to $16,000 for a first violation, in addition to other penalties. The prospective tenant claiming discrimination can also choose to bring a civil case to court and request compensation.
Examples of Discrimination By an Atlanta Rental Property Management Company
What does discrimination look like? It is based on treating some individuals different than everyone else. It can sometimes looks different than you think, which is why we included the following examples of discrimination.
A prospective tenant named Rebecca sets up a walk-through to see a rental home. When she arrives she has a service animal with her. The landlord says there is a no pet policy at the rental property. Rebecca responds that her dog is not a pet, it is a service animal. The landlord asks what the nature and severity of her disability is before stating the no pet policy is strict. Rebecca asks for the reasonable accommodation of allowing her service dog despite the policy. The landlord refuses and Rebecca leaves the walk-through disappointed.
Refusing to make accommodations for a tenant with a disability is discrimination. According to the Fair Housing Act, service animals are not considered pets, and in most cases allowing service animals is considered a reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. To reject a tenant because of a service animal, a landlord must prove that the animal would cause an undue burden for their Atlanta property management services. This burden can include administrative, financial, or health and safety concerns. In addition, while landlords can ask for documentation proving the animal is in fact a service animal, they cannot ask specifically about a tenant’s disability.
An Asian man moving to Atlanta contacts a property management company to show him rental homes. The man has already picked two neighborhoods he wants to look at because of their proximity to his office. The property manager tells the man he would probably feel more comfortable in another neighborhood and takes him to see a house across town, almost an hour away. When they arrive, the man notices the majority of residents in this neighborhood are Asian. Steering someone to specific neighborhoods based on their race is a form of racial discrimination. The man can report his experience to the Department of Housing and Urban Development so they can investigate the property manager.
Amar, an Indian Sikh man wearing a Dastar, or turban, walks into a property management company’s office. He tells the manager he saw a listing online for an apartment for rent and asks to see it. The manager informs him the apartment has already been leased, and there are no more vacancies. He says if Amar leaves his phone number the Atlanta rental property management company will contact him when there is a vacancy. After Amar leaves, a white man wearing western clothing enters asking about the vacancy. He is immediately shown the apartment and signs a lease.
Refusing to show a rental property because of someone’s race, national origin, or religion is discrimination. No matter what your religion, race, or national origin you are guaranteed equal access to housing under the Fair Housing Act. In cases like the one above, HUD investigates and often finds a pattern of discrimination.
Discrimination sadly happens every day in Atlanta and around the United States. At Specialized Property Management Atlanta, we are proud of our commitment to following the guidelines of the Fair Housing Act. We do this not only because it is the law, but because everyone deserves equal access to quality housing. For more information on the Fair Housing Act including more examples of discrimination visit this page.
What Local Housing Laws Apply to Atlanta Property Management Services?
According to Atlanta Municipal Code, individuals are protected from housing discrimination according to “race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, and disability.” (source). Atlanta Municipal Code expands the Fair Housing Act by adding gender identity, age, color, creed, domestic relationship status, and sexual orientation. Accepting or denying a prospective tenant’s application can be based on employment verification, credit check, criminal history, and sex offender status. Here are a few more examples of what not to do as an Atlanta property manager.
Alex and Emma are looking for a rental home, and set up a showing with a property management company. When they show up to the rental home, the manager comments that he thought Alex would be a boy, when in fact she is a girl. He asks if they are roommates or related, and they reply that they are dating. During the showing, the couple is excited about the home and want to start the application paperwork right away. The manager calls the next day to tell them they didn’t qualify. The couple is distraught, and wonder if their sexual orientation had anything to do with the Atlanta rental property management company’s decision. After all, they have great credit, rental history, and more than enough income to cover the rent.
If Alex and Emma choose to file a complaint with the City of Atlanta Human Relations Commission, they may find out their instincts were right. After an investigation, they learn the manager who showed them the rental home has a history of turning away homosexual couples.
Robert is a single dad looking for a rental home to share with his two teenagers. On the phone with the landlord, he explains that he is looking for a three-bedroom single-family home, but doesn’t go into detail about his kids. During the showing, Robert tells the landlord his kids are 15 and 17, and he is excited that they will each have their own room in their new rental home. Upon hearing the kids ages, the landlord informs Robert he doesn’t rent to families with teenagers because he had a bad experience with a tenant who had teenagers several years ago. The landlord is discriminating against Robert and his children when he refuses to rent to them. It is illegal for him to deny housing on the basis of Robert’s children’s ages.
Atlanta property management services should be open to everyone in our community. The way an applicant looks, their beliefs, family status, age, disability, or identity should never factor into whether or not their rental application is accepted or denied. Individuals who feel they have been discriminated against due to one of the above statuses can complain to the City of Atlanta Human Relations Commission in addition to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to the City of Atlanta, if you are an applicant who as experienced discrimination, “you may be entitled to financial relief, including compensatory or punitive damages. The discriminatory actor may also be required to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs if incurred. You may also be entitled to injunctive relief (access to the property at issue or a comparable property), but MOST IMPORTANT, the housing provider will have to stop the discriminatory practice against you and others.” (source).
How Atlanta Rental Property Management Can Help You Comply with the Law
Do all the federal and local laws sound confusing to navigate? That is because they are! One reason many of our clients decide to work with us is that we are experts in landlord and tenant law. Our property managers work hard to ensure they are treating each and every tenant fairly and adhering to Federal and local laws.
The Specialized Property Management Atlanta team is ready to help you make your rental investment into a success. In addition to being experts in landlord and tenant law, we take care of every part of the rental cycle. From making your home rent ready, to performing cost-effective maintenance we are with you every step of the way. To discuss your rental home and receive a quote today, call us at 404-596-8454.