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Housing Department

Fair Housing Act

How the Fair Housing Act Applies Today

Fair Housing Laws

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on the race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents of legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18) or disability of those seeking housing.  It also forbids retaliation.

These fair housing laws protect the right of each home seeker to equal opportunity and treatment in the purchase, sale, rental, leasing, financing, insuring and advertising of housing.

It is unlawful for a real estate operator, broker, or sales agent:

  • To refuse to sell, rent, lease or exchange real property for discriminatory reasons.

  • To refuse to receive or transmit good faith offers to purchase or rent.

  • To deny any services or facilities relating to real property transactions.

  • To represent that real property is not available for inspection, sale or rental when in fact it is.

  • To retain a listing with the understanding that the seller plans to discriminate.

  • To discriminate in the terms or conditions of sale or rental.

  • To engage in the tactics and practices of panic-selling; to represent that the racial composition of a neighborhood may change or that property values may lower; or make similar false and misleading statements.

It is unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of any housing rights.

It is unlawful for a financial institution:

  • To discriminate in granting, rates, terms, conditions or services of financial assistance in real estate transactions.

  • To discriminate in the making or purchasing of loans.

It is unlawful for an insurance agent:

  • To discriminate in terms, conditions, or privileges of insurance against hazards to a housing accommodation.

It is unlawful for a multiple listing service/real estate organization to:

  • Deny access or restrict membership or participation for discriminatory reasons.

Housing Discrimination Still Exists

Despite a wide range of housing opportunities throughout Kansas, the doors of homes, apartments, mobile homes and condominiums are closed to many citizens because of illegal discrimination.  Complaints to the Kansas Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) indicate that discrimination is a common practice, frequently undetected by homeseekers who are unlawfully denied access to housing.

Warning Signs of Housing Discrimination

  • Refusing to sell, rent or show available housing

  • Only showing housing in areas of minority concentration

  • Harassment or intimidation

  • Housing advertisement with discriminatory statements or displaying no minorities in group scenes

  • Differing terms for identical dwellings

  • Extensive questioning prior to offering or providing information about the availability of housing

  • Being told the dwelling is not appropriate for your family

  • Terms or availability change between phone contact and visit

  • You are not contacted after acceptance of your application

  • Dwelling has an available sign but you are told it is not available

  • Refusing to make a reasonable accommodation or allow a modification to make the dwelling accessible for a person with a disability

What Kinds of Housing is Covered?

Real Property, (home, apartments, lots, etc.) rented or sold, whether by or through a real estate broker, sales agent or operator or directly by the owner (see Exemptions below).

Circumstantial Exemptions

The rental of an owner-occupied duplex or one room in a private home; the sale of property without help from a real estate dealer and without public advertising; and rental of church-owned housing to the extent of giving preference to that religion.

Refusal to rent on the basis of sex if: a single sex dormitory; the landlord chooses not to rent to unmarried couples; or the landlord rents fewer than 10 units or to fewer than 10 persons in an owner occupied facility; it can be demonstrated that gender-based exclusions are necessary for reasons of personal modesty or privacy.

Refusal to rent on basis of familial status if: Housing is intended as housing for older persons; occupants 62 years of age or older; or 80 percent of all units in the facility have occupants 55 years of age or older and special services for older persons are provided.

Who is Subject to the Fair Housing Laws?

  • Real Estate operators, brokers and agents

  • Savings and Loan associations, mortgage lenders, banks, or other financial institutions

  • Apartment housing agents

  • Builders, contractors and developers

  • Owners of building lots

  • Advertising media

  • Homeowners advertising and selling their own home

  • Multiple listing services and/or real estate related organizations

  • Insurers and agents

Enforcement

The Urban League of Wichita investigates the claim and forwards it to the Fair Housing Office of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which:

  • Receives complaints that must be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination.

  • Investigates within 120 days the complaints and determines whether discrimination has occurred.

  • Attempts to eliminate discriminatory acts through conference, persuasion and conciliation

  • Enters into conciliation agreements which are enforceable in court

  • Holds public hearings on complaints where discrimination has occurred if conciliation attempts fail

  • Issues court-enforceable cease and desist and affirmative action orders

  • Assesses damages and/or civil penalties when appropriate.

Immediate Help

If you need immediate help to stop a serious problem that is being caused by a Fair Housing Act violation, HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court to seek temporary or preliminary relief, pending the outcome of your complaint if:

  • Irreparable harm is likely to occur without HUD’s intervention

  • There is substantial evidence that a violation of the Fair Housing Act occurred.

Example:  A builder agrees to sell a home, but after learning the buyer is black, fails to keep the agreement.  The buyer files a complaint with HUD and HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court to prevent a sale to any other buyer until HUD investigates the complaint.

What Happens After a Complaint Investigation?

If, after investigating your complaint, HUS finds reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, it will inform you.  Your case will be heard in an administrative hearing within 120 days, unless you or the respondent want the case to be heard in Federal District Court.  Either way there is no cost to you.

The Administrative Hearing

If your case goes to an administrative hearing, HUD attorneys will litigate the case on your behalf.   You may intervene in the case and be represented by your own attorney if you wish.  An administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will consider evidence from you and the respondent.  If the AJL decides that discrimination occurred, the respondent can be ordered:

  • To compensate you for actual damages, including humiliation, pain and suffering.

  • To provide injunctive or other equitable relief, for example, to make the housing available to you.

  • To pay the Federal Government a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest.  The maximum penalties are $10,000 for a first violation and $50,000 for a third violation within seven years.

  • To pay for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Federal District Court

If you or the respondent choose to have your case decided in Federal District Court, the Attorney General will file a suit and litigate it on your behalf.  Like the ALJ, the District Court can order relief and award actual damages, attorney’s fees and costs.  In addition, the court can award punitive damages.

Sedgwick County Housing Department partners with the Urban League of Wichita, a HUD approved and funded Fair Housing Education and Outreach agency.  We refer all families who believe they have encountered housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin familial status or disability to this agency with the following directions:

  1. Record your experiences in writing including your name and the names of other individuals involved, and the person or persons to whom the complaint is directed (the respondent.)

  2. Make a written log of all significant conversations including names, dates, times and addresses as well as any incidents that may indicate the alleged violation.

  3. Keep copies of any allegedly discriminating advertisements, letters or other relevant information.

  4. Call and make an appointment and take your documentation to the Fair Housing staff at the Urban League of Wichita.