Housing Provider Guidance
Fair housing laws prohibit housing providers and the media from printing or publishing an advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a protected class. Generally, a housing advertisement should describe the property itself, and not the potential tenant.
Checklist of Prohibited Marketing Terms:
1. Race, color, National Origin.
Do not describe the housing, the current or potential residents, or the neighbors or neighborhood in racial or ethnic terms (i.e., white family home, no Irish).
HUD Examples: White, Black, Colored.
Do not include any preference, limitation or discrimination on account of religion.
HUD Examples: Protestant, Christian, Catholic, Jewish.
Do not include any preferences, limitations, or discrimination based on gender, except where the sharing of living areas is involved. i.e. a 3 bedroom home with a shared living room may discriminate based on sex.
Note: This does not apply to school dormitories or other educational housing.
Do not include any exclusions, limitations, or other indications of discrimination based on disability (e.g., no wheelchairs).
HUD Examples: crippled, blind, deaf, mentally ill, retarded, impaired, handicapped, physically fit.
Note: This does not limit the inclusion of information about the availability of accessible housing in advertising of dwellings.
5. Familial Status.
Do not include any limitations on the number or ages of children, or state a preference for adults, couples or singles (i.e., no children, adults only)
HUD Examples: adults, children, singles, mature persons.
Note: This does not apply to some dwellings which are intended and lawfully operated for occupancy by older persons and constitute housing for older persons.
6. Arbitrary Discrimination:
Do not include any words or phrases that might imply discrimination, but that do not denote any particular class.
HUD Examples: restricted, exclusive, private, integrated, traditional, board approval or membership approval.
Do not include any slang words or phrases used regionally or locally which imply or suggest race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
8. Implied Discrimination from Descriptions:
Do not include any descriptions that may be used to indicate a preference. Names of facilities which cater to a particular racial, national origin or religious group, such as country club or private school designations, or names of facilities which are used exclusively by one sex may indicate a preference.
Do not include any symbols or logos which imply or suggest race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
HUD Example: Do the stock photos or human models imply a preference?
If you use“human models”:
“If models are used in display advertising campaigns, the models should be clearly definable as reasonably representing majority and minority groups in the metropolitan area, both sexes, and, when appropriate, families with children. Models, if used, should portray persons in an equal social setting and indicate to the general public that the housing is open to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, and is not for the exclusive use of one such group.”
10. Discrimination by Design:
Do not market on any website that limits users choices based on any of the protected categories, or for expressing their views, beliefs, etc. Look for areas where the site (1) asks for identifying information then (2) changes choices in the menu based on those choices. Areas in which free text is permitted, however, are fine.
11. “Selective Use”
Do not include any text or content that could be non-discriminatory in some contexts, but may have been selected to be discriminatory in your particular advertisement.
HUD Example: Does a campaign only use English in an area that is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking? Does an advertisement on one platform list different available units than ads on another platform? These may indicate that we should look more closely at that campaign.
12. And finally, always include the Fair Housing Logo. It’s Required!
All covered multifamily dwellings must have accessible design features such as:
•Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
•Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
•An accessible route into and through the unit
•Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls.
•Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars
•Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs
If your residence does not meet meet these standards, reasonable modification requests to bring the property up to standard must be paid for by the landlord.
A request for an animal requires evidence of disability and that the animal’s presence will alleviate this disability in order to waive “no pets” policy. Landlords may still deny access with evidence that a specific animal will cause harm or endanger health and safety of others.
Landlords often require pet deposits, but a person with a disability who has or obtains an assistance animal may not be required to pay extra compensation for the assistance animal but is liable for damages done to the premises by the animal.
Similarly, landlords also may want to limit allowable animals by breed. But support animals may not be limited strictly by size, weight, or breed. Any determination of reasonableness must be based on the specific animal in question.
Note that falsely claiming an animal to be a service animal is a misdemeanor in California, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for six months or a fine up to $1000 or both. Cal. Penal Code § 365.7, Cal. Food & Agriculture Code § 30850(b)
However, note also that “interfering” with the rights of a disabled person (such as disallowing them access) is also a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $2500. Cal. Penal Code § 365.5(c) (1996)
For more information, see the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Service Animal Comparison Guide.
How to Respond to Requests
When you receive a request, you must then initiate an interactive, good faith
dialogue with the resident who made the request to assess it and to
reach a mutually acceptable solution.
If you are uncertain about how to provide a requested accommodation, ask the resident to help identify community resources to assist in granting the accommodation.
Give the requester the following:
1. A letter confirming that we received the request.
2. If needed, a letter asking for additional information (such as verification that the person has a disability, that the accommodation is disability-related, or
both), with a suggested timeline for providing the information.
3. A letter notifying that you have approved the request, that it is under consideration, denied, or granted in a form different from that requested by the person with a disability.
Make sure to document the interactive process, noting those situations in which additional information is necessary. Evaluate each request on a case by case basis, in a timely and professional manner, since you have an obligation to provide prompt responses to requests.
If you delay responding to an accommodation request, after a reasonable amount of time the delay may be construed as a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. A resident or applicant may then choose to seek legal assistance or to file a complaint with a fair housing agency.
Keep Information about Disabilities Confidential
Whether in casual conversation or during the interactive process, sometimes a person will reveal information about a disability, medical treatment, or details about tasks a service animal does for them.
Keep this information confidential and not share it, except:
With management employees who need information to make a decision to grant or deny a reasonable accommodation request,
Or when disclosure is required by law (for example, a court-issued subpoena).
It is not appropriate to discuss a resident’s disability or accommodations with another resident
Note that you must continue to engage in the interactive process with residents while they remain on your property – even if there is a pending eviction action and/or a pending housing discrimination complaint.