A Guide to Fair Housing Laws for Property Managers

A Guide to Fair Housing Laws for Property Managers

As a property manager, it’s crucial to understand and comply with fair housing laws. The Fair Housing Act, for example, prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various fair housing laws, their implications for property managers, and how to ensure compliance. We’ll also provide relevant examples, case studies, and statistics to support our points.

Understanding Fair Housing Laws

Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act is a federal law that aims to eliminate housing discrimination and promote equal opportunity. It applies to various aspects of the housing market, including rentals, sales, and financing. Over the years, additional laws and amendments have been introduced to further protect specific groups and address emerging issues.

  • The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 expanded the protected classes to include people with disabilities and families with children.
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits discrimination in lending based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or receipt of public assistance.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federally funded housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (Ada) mandates accessibility in public and commercial spaces, including common areas of residential buildings.

Implications for Property Managers

As a property manager, you must ensure that your policies and practices comply with fair housing laws. This includes advertising, tenant screening, leasing, and property maintenance. Failure to do so can result in costly fines, lawsuits, and damage to your reputation.


When advertising your property, avoid using language that could be perceived as discriminatory. For example, don’t specify a preference for a particular race, religion, or gender. Instead, focus on the property’s features and amenities. Additionally, include the Equal Housing Opportunity logo or statement in your ads to demonstrate your commitment to fair housing.

Tenant Screening

Develop a consistent and objective tenant screening process that doesn’t discriminate against any protected class. This includes using the same criteria for all applicants, such as credit score, income, and rental history. Be cautious when considering criminal history, as blanket policies against applicants with criminal records may disproportionately impact certain racial or ethnic groups, potentially violating fair housing laws.


Ensure that your lease agreements don’t contain any discriminatory terms or conditions. For example, don’t impose different rules or fees for families with children or people with disabilities. Additionally, be prepared to make reasonable accommodations or modifications for tenants with disabilities, such as allowing service animals or installing grab bars in bathrooms.

Property Maintenance

Treat all tenants fairly and equally when it comes to property maintenance and repairs. Respond promptly to maintenance requests and address issues in a timely manner. Avoid providing preferential treatment to certain tenants or neglecting the needs of others based on their protected class.

Ensuring Compliance

To ensure compliance with fair housing laws, consider the following best practices:

  • Stay informed about the latest fair housing regulations and updates.
  • Provide fair housing training for your staff, including leasing agents, maintenance personnel, and contractors.
  • Develop written policies and procedures that outline your commitment to fair housing and provide guidance on handling specific situations.
  • Conduct regular audits of your advertising, tenant screening, leasing, and property maintenance practices to identify potential areas of concern.
  • Consult with legal counsel or fair housing experts if you’re unsure about a particular issue or decision.

Examples and Case Studies

Understanding real-life examples and case studies can help property managers better grasp the importance of fair housing compliance. Here are a few notable cases:

  • In 2019, a property management company in California agreed to pay $20,000 to settle a fair housing complaint alleging that they refused to rent to a family with children.
  • In 2018, a landlord in New York was fined $15,000 for refusing to rent to a prospective tenant because of her Section 8 voucher, which is considered discrimination based on source of income.
  • In 2017, a property management company in Texas was ordered to pay $75,000 for failing to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant with a disability, including denying her request for a reserved parking space near her apartment.


According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, there were over 28,000 reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2019. However, it’s estimated that the actual number of incidents is much higher, as many cases go unreported. The most common basis for complaints was disability (57%), followed by race (20%), familial status (9%), and national origin (7%).


In conclusion, fair housing laws play a critical role in promoting equal opportunity and preventing discrimination in the housing market. As a property manager, it’s essential to understand these laws and implement policies and practices that ensure compliance. By doing so, you’ll not only protect your business from costly fines and lawsuits but also contribute to a more inclusive and equitable housing landscape for all.

Kurby Team

The Kurby Content Team is a diverse group of seasoned real estate experts dedicated to providing insightful, reliable information for homebuyers, real estate investors, and real estate agents. With backgrounds ranging from real estate brokerage, property investment, and residential home buying, our team combines decades of experience with a passion for demystifying the real estate world. We at Kurby are committed to helping you make informed, successful real estate decisions. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or a real estate professional, count on the Kurby Content Team to deliver the most relevant, actionable real estate content you need.

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