Among many other obligations, Missouri landlords have certain legal obligations they must abide by. One such legal obligation is the strict adherence to the Fair Housing Act. Enacted by Congress in 1968, the Fair Housing Act bars landlords from discriminating against their tenants on the basis of certain protected characteristics.
Besides landlords, all other players in the housing industry, such as lenders and home buyers, are also expected to follow the act’s stipulations.
In this blog, we’ll take you through everything you need to know regarding the Missouri Fair Housing Act.
What Is the Background of the Fair Housing Act (FHA)?
The FHA came into being on April 11, 1968. Its aim was (and still is) to stamp out all forms of housing-related discrimination on the basis of some protected characteristics.
Its passing wasn’t a walk in the park, despite all the good things it promised. Congress repeatedly failed to garner a strong enough majority to pass it on several occasions. Martin Luther King’s assassination pushed Congress to pass it in the end. Lyndon B. Johnson to him and the bill was passed a week later.
What Are the Protected Characteristics in the State of Missouri?
At the federal level, there are 7 protected characteristics. That is race, color, disability, religion, gender, national origin, and familial status.
Some states have also passed legislation to add even more classes. In Missouri, however, it has remained at those 7 when it comes to housing specifically.
What Are Some Examples of Violations to the Fair Housing Act?
As a landlord, the following are some of the things that you’ll want to avoid, or else you’ll risk being accused of housing discrimination:
- Posting a rental ad with discriminatory statements. For example, stating “No Children Allowed,” “Ideal for Men,” “Christian Only,” and “Suitable for a Single Professional.” All these statements either show limitation or preference to a certain type of tenant. As per the Fair Housing Act, that’s illegal
- Denying a rental application to a prospective tenant with a service dog. Disability is one of the protected characteristics under the FHA. So, even with a no-pet policy, you’d be in violation of the act to deny housing to a disabled tenant
- Selectively responding to or delaying repairs or maintenance to residents belonging to a certain protected class
- Using different eviction criteria or security deposit amounts based on the protected class a tenant belongs to
- Falsely stating that a home isn’t available when you’re simply doing that because the tenant belongs to a certain class
- Threatening, coercing, intimidating, or interfering with anyone exercising their right to fair housing. Your Missouri tenant obtains certain rights when they sign a lease with you. For instance, to report you to a relevant local agency when the unit fails to meet health or safety codes and to join or form a tenants’ union to advocate for their rights. If you discriminate against a tenant for exercising such rights, you’d have violated the FHA
Do the Missouri Fair Housing Laws Have Special Protections for Tenants with a Disability?
Yes, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights gives certain rights to tenants with mental or physical disabilities.
First and foremost, you have a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations, meaning you should make changes to rules, policies, practices, and services when necessary to accommodate a disabled tenant. In other words, nothing should stand in the way of the tenant using and enjoying their rented premises.
You don’t, however, have to act on unreasonable requests that will put an undue financial burden on you.
The following are examples of reasonable accommodations:
- Accepting service animals
- Reserving a close parking space for a tenant with limited mobility
- Adding a grab bar to a tenant’s bathroom
- Adjusting a rent payment schedule to accommodate a disabled tenant who may be receiving income assistance
- Permitting a tenant to transfer to a ground-floor unit
How Can Landlords Avoid Housing Discrimination Claims in the State of Missouri?
Adherence to the Fair Housing Act, and all other laws for that matter, aren’t optional. You must strictly abide by them in order to run a successful rental business.
To stay on the good side of the law, the following should be in your standard landlord operating procedures:
1. Create Proper Ads
At some point in your landlord career, you’ll experience a vacancy. And, as a savvy rental property owner, you probably know the importance of filling up a vacancy as quickly as possible.
What you might overlook, however, are the statements you include in those ads. You should be careful not to say something that a potential tenant may find discriminating.
The following are some examples of statements that are a no-go when it comes to rental advertising:
- An Asian family home
- A Jewish neighborhood
- No wheelchairs
- Perfect neighborhood for singles
2. Screen Prospective Tenants Properly
Have a standard screening procedure. In other words, have one screening procedure that you apply to all applicants regardless of their protected characteristics. It should be based on finding good tenants who won’t break the lease, and that’s all.
Also, ask the right questions. Did you know that there are certain questions that you cannot ask a prospective tenant when screening them? They include:
- Do you have kids?
- Are you gay?
- Are you married?
- What is your first language?
- How old are you?
These are all illegal rental application questions that are bound to get you into trouble with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Are the legal responsibilities of a landlord weighing you down? If so, Keyrenter St. Charles Property Management can help. We understand all legal obligations landlords in Missouri have and will keep you and your property in strict adherence to the law. Get in touch with us to learn more!
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be used for educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified attorney or property management company like Keyrenter Property Management St.Charles directly for help.