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Fair Housing Update: Latest Regulations and Public Awareness Efforts You Need to Know About

by Published On: Mar 25, 2013Updated On: May 22, 2013

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability. In recognition of the passing of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, each April is celebrated as Fair Housing Month.

Typically, activity ramps up that month with release of new rules, community-wide education, public awareness, etc. This year was no exception.

A new media campaign was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) on public awareness, including the launch of a recent mobile application (app).  

Add to that a new Notice on Services Animals, new rules on Design and Construction standards, and the recently released final rule on Disparate Impact, and senior providers may well see an uptick in fair housing activity in their area for some time to come.

Service Animals and Companion Animals

According to the new Notice on Services Animals, while the definition of "service animal" contained in ADA regulations is very usefully clarified for areas of public accommodation (like theatres, airports, etc), it does not limit housing providers' obligations to grant reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals in housing under either the FHA or Section 504.  

Housing providers must still evaluate a request by an applicant or tenant to live with an “assistance animal” as it would any other request for reasonable accommodation. 

Scott Moore, a legal specialist for HUD’s Fair Housing Accessibility First Program, and member of the LeadingAge legal committee, shares his analysis with practical information for HUD housing providers.

Disparate Impact

Effective March 18, 2013, a final rule on disparate impact analysis scrutinizes rules and practices that, while neutral on their face, have a harsher impact on members of a class of people protected under the Fair Housing Act.  The rule lays out a formalized 3-part burden-shifting test for determining when policies or practices resulting in a discriminatory effect violate the Fair Housing Act and essentially blesses legal findings of liability absent proof of any actual intent to discriminate, which may come with stiff legal penalties.  A focused article published previously offers more details.

HUD and DOJ Release Joint Statement On Fair Housing Act Design and Construction Requirements

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice on April 30 issued a press release and Joint Statement on the "Accessibility (Design and Construction) Requirements for Covered Multifamily Dwellings under the Fair Housing Act."
The new guidance is designed to help design professionals, developers and builders better understand their obligations and help persons with disabilities better understand their rights regarding the "design and construction" requirements for covered multifamily dwellings (built after March 13, 1991) under the federal Fair Housing Act. Failure to design and construct covered multifamily dwellings with certain features of accessible design is one type of disability discrimination prohibited by the Act.  The guidance is presented as a list of 63 questions and answers.  We have created a fact sheet to provide more information on the subject.

Public Awareness

During April 2013, Fair Housing Month, HUD and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) launched a national media campaign to educate the public and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.  

As stated in the HUD press release, the campaign, “Fair Housing Is Your Right. Use It,” includes English, Spanish, and Chinese radio and print public service advertisements that feature examples of actions which violate the Fair Housing Act. The campaign also lets the public know what to do if they experience housing discrimination. 

The theme for April 2013's Fair Housing Month was “Our Work Today Defines Our Tomorrow,” spotlighting HUD’s current enforcement, education, outreach efforts and HUD collaboration with its fair housing partners.

Got Fair Housing Questions?  There's an App for that! 

Earlier in the year, on March 7, the  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled the first housing discrimination mobile app for iPhone and iPad

Developed by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and Hewlett Packard, the app uses the latest technology to: 

  • Provide the public with a quick and easy way to learn about their housing rights and to file housing discrimination complaints.
  • Inform the housing industry about its responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. 

The app also provides information about the fair housing complaint process, information on housing rights following a natural disasters and allows the public to access HUD’s toll-free discrimination hotline and link to HUD’s fair housing information

To get this housing discrimination app, visit the Apple App store.

For more on the Fair Housing Act, see details on the HUD Fair Housing questions and answers page.


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