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Fair Housing

Fair Housing Is Your Right

The City of Rio Rancho is dedicated to affirmatively furthering fair housing by making the public aware of their fair housing rights.  Our goal is to provide citizens with an understanding of what “fair housing” is, what fair housing rights are protected under the law, types of illegal discriminatory actions, and how to file a Fair Housing Complaint.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the federal Fair Housing Act, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex/gender, or national origin.  The 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act expanded coverage to prohibit discrimination based on mental or physical disability or familial status. The Fair Housing Act covers most housing, with certain exceptions.picture of family

In New Mexico, additional protected classes identified under the New Mexico Human Rights Act of 1978 include:  Ancestry, Sexual Orientation/Preference, Gender Identity, and Spousal Affiliation (married or not married).

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is Against the Law to:

  • Refuse to sell or rent you housing
  • Tell you housing is unavailable for inspection, sale or rental when, in fact, it is available
  • Show you apartments or homes only in certain neighborhoods
  • Offer different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Advertise housing to preferred groups of people only
  • Refuse to provide you with information regarding mortgage loans, deny you a mortgage loan, or impose different terms or conditions on a mortgage loan
  • Deny you property insurance
  • Conduct property appraisals in a discriminatory manner
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations for persons with a disability if the accommodation may be necessary to afford such person a reasonable and equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling
  • In some instances, and under certain circumstances, it may be considered illegal when a builder ‘fails to design and construct in an accessible manner’
  • Harass, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with anyone exercising or assisting someone else with his/her fair housing rights.

Fair Housing Questions & Answers:

Q:  What is Fair Housing?

A:  Fair housing means you have the chance to choose where you want to live based solely on your ability to pay the rent or mortgage.

Q:  What is discrimination?

A:  Discrimination is when you are not treated the same as others, or you do not treat others the same, because there may be differences between you because of: 

  • Race (African American, White, Hispanic, Native American, Asian)
  • Color (Black, White)
  • National Origin (Mexican, Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Somalian, Korean)
  • Sex or gender (male, female)
  • Religion (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism)
  • Familial Status (families with children under the age of 18 or who are expecting a child), or
  • Disability (persons who have any mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity)

Q:  If your family includes children under the age of 18, are there clues that indicate your family may have been discriminated against when looking for a place to live?

A:  Yes, clues may be found in statements made to a family when they want to rent or buy a home.  The statements below are examples of what is called familial status discrimination:

  • "I don't think your kids would like it here."
  • "Children cannot use the pool or club house."
  • "I wouldn't feel comfortable renting the apartment on the third floor to a family with a toddler."
  • "There is an additional security deposit of $100 per child."
  • "This is a quiet development; we don't want children living here."
  • "It is not safe for your children because we don't have a fence around the pool."
  • "Kids are not allowed to live in building number 1233."
  • "Our insurance doesn't cover renting to families with children."

Q:  How is a person with a disability protected under the Fair Housing Act?

A: A person with a disability is treated and protected in the same way as a person without a disability.  Some people with disabilities may need reasonable accommodations or modifications to enable them to use and enjoy the housing of their choice.  A reasonable accommodation is a change to any rule, policy, practice or service to allow a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a housing unit.  A reasonable modification is a physical change to the living environment that allows a person with mobility impairments, equal access to their housing.  Landlords receiving federal money may have to make modifications at their expense.  Disabled tenants in non-federally funded housing programs must pay for modifications.
 
Some examples of reasonable accommodations and modifications are: logo

  • Widening doors so that a wheel chair can go through (modification)
  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom (modification)
  • Installing a ramp to allow access into the housing unit without using steps (modification)
  • Assigning a reserved parking space near their unit (accommodation)
  • Allowing a service or assistance animal (accommodation)

Q:  How do Fair Housing laws apply to real life situations?  Here are some examples: 

Situation 1
John has been diagnosed with severe depression and is disabled as defined by the Fair Housing Act.  His doctor prescribes John a dog to help alleviate some of his symptoms.  John asks his landlord if he can have a dog as a reasonable accommodation for his disability.  His landlord says yes, but tells John he'll need to pay a $250 pet deposit and must provide proof that the animal is trained.

Q:  Did John's landlord correctly handle John's request under the Fair Housing Act?  What if John wanted a cat or a ferret instead?

A:  No, John's landlord did not handle his request correctly.  The landlord cannot charge John a pet deposit for his animal because it is not a pet, but rather a service or assistance animal required for disability.  Further, the landlord cannot ask for proof that the animal is trained and lastly, service/ companion animals do not have to be just dogs; they can also be other animals, such as cats or ferrets.

Situation 2
Tasha and Steve have two children and wish to rent a two-bedroom apartment at ABC Apartments.  The manager tells them that they cannot rent there because ABC Apartments is for adults only.  Tasha and Steve see 20 and 30 year olds living at the complex, but they see no children.

Q:  Can the manager refuse to rent to them because they have children?

A:  Unless ABC Apartments meet the federal criteria for senior housing (55+ and 62+) then the manager cannot refuse to rent to a family solely because they have children.  Tasha and Steve could have a valid complaint under the Fair Housing Act.

Q:  What should we do if we think our rights were violated and we were discriminated against while we were looking for a home?

A: If you live in New Mexico and feel you have experienced discrimination related to your housing, you should call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD-Region VI) at (888) 560-8913.  If you live outside of New Mexico, call (800) 669-9777.  You may also file a HUD Fair Housing Discrimination Complaint online.

To File a HUD Fair Housing Discrimination Complaint Online: 

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint

girl in wheelchair with service dogAdditional Resources for Fair Housing Information

HUD - Fair Housing Home Page:
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp
   

HUD's Process for Handling Fair Housing Complaints
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/complaint-process

HUD - “Fair Housing – It’s Your Right”: 
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/FHLaws/yourrights

HUD - “Fair Housing – Equal Opportunity for All” pamphlets in English and Spanish:
English:   http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=2011EqualOppforall.pdf
Spanish:  http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=FHEOBookletSpanishWeb.pdf

HUD – Various Reference Sources in Various Languages:
http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/lep.xml#Booklets

Questions and Answers for Landlords and Managers: 
MS Word Document

Disability Rights New Mexico
http://drnm.org/

Espanol

Vista en Espanol

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