SB 368, introduced in the Nevada Senate on March 21, 2011, proposes to expand fair housing law in Nevada (NRS 118) by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected classes under the law. If the bill becomes law, Nevada will have 10 protected classes: Race, Color, Religion, National Origin, Sex, Familial Status, Handicap, Ancestry, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity/Expression. This means, it would become illegal in our state to deny or limit housing choices to anyone in Nevada based on their status as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.
This question comes up all too frequently in the classes I teach for property managers in Nevada. As our population ages, and the need for services increases, we’re seeing a growing demand for group homes for the elderly, and those with disabilities.
According to statistics gathered in 2010 by Silver State Fair Housing Council on discrimination complaints made to the organization during the year, allegations of discrimination against people with disabilities far outnumbered all other complaints, combined.
Under fair housing law, “handicap” (disability) includes any mental or physical condition that significantly limits one or more major life activities. In addition to protections afforded to persons with current disabilities, the law also protects people with a history of disability, anyone associated with (caregivers) a person with a disability, and anyone perceived (assumed) to have a disability.
Recently, a student asked me about an article she saw published in a trade magazine for Community Association Managers that addresses recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, or ADAA – as amended). In part, the article states:
“The new [ADA] regulations should put an end to the countless service animal questions that have vexed managers, attorneys and judges for decades. The 2010 [ADA] regulations narrow the definition of service animal specifically to dogs…No more debate about monkeys, pot-bellied pigs, cats, or birds.”
The article seems to imply the new ADA regulations apply to resident requests for service animals, which is not the case. The article goes on to say (emphasis added):
“Training has become a key factor. Not only must dogs be trained, but the training must relate directly to the resident’s disability… The [ADA] act makes clear that dogs that simply provide emotional support, comfort or companionship do not qualify as service animals.”
I returned to my office this afternoon, fully “charged” by the highly interactive training session I co-facilitated this morning in Reno. Our topic was fair housing, and the group was very engaged, offering up questions and comments of great relevance to the group of housing providers. We had property managers, landlords, community managers, leasing agents, and maintenance personnel in attendance.
H.R. 6500, a bill introduced on December 8, 2010 and known as The Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act would be (if passed) the first significant change to federal fair housing law since 1988, when families with children and persons with disabilities were afforded protections.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is representing the woman, free of charge, and it says, “Clearly, this woman has a right to pick and choose who she wants to live with. Christians shouldn’t live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians.”
Today’s post addresses a question I am frequently asked by Nevada property managers – “Do I have to rent to Section 8 tenants?” It seems many landlords are either unfamiliar with this HUD program, or are relying on hearsay to make their decisions as to whether to accept a renter on housing assistance. (NOTE: Nevada’s Fair Housing Law does not list “Source of Income” as a protected class – other states and jurisdictions DO prohibit housing providers from discriminating on the basis of a tenant’s income source. Know your local laws and statutes!)
What is “Section 8?”
“Section 8” is a commonly-used term for what HUD calls “the Housing Choice Voucher Program.” It is the federal government’s primary program for assisting low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities to afford clean, safe, and desirable housing in the private market. Continue reading “Do I have to rent to Section 8 tenants?”→
As a property manager in Nevada, one of your responsibilities is to qualify tenants to rent your properties. We know we are prohibited by both state and federal Fair Housing laws from discriminating against a potential tenant because of his race, skin color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status (presence of children under 18), disability, or ancestry. Yet, is “discrimination” always illegal?
As humans, we discriminate on a daily basis.
In its most basic definition, to discriminate “is the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently.” There are legal ways in which landlords determine the qualifications of prospective tenants.
Show me the money.
As property managers, our owner/clients expect us to verify prospective tenants’ income, employment and credit. We need to know whether the prospect pays his rent and other bills on time. We want to know whether he’s been evicted before. These factors are essential in determining whether a prospect is qualified to enter into a rental contract. Continue reading “Legal Discrimination”→
Every now and then, I’ll hear from a property manager expressing frustration over a request they received for permission to keep a “companion animal.” The request comes either before or during occupancy by a tenant (or owner, if in a condominium or similar housing) claiming to have a metal or physical disability. I’ve been told, “Anyone who wants a pet can have one just by getting a doctor’s letter.”
The frustration expressed by these property managers is clear. The assumption is that some residents “take advantage” of laws allowing companion animals as a fair housing accommodation when they don’t appear to have a medical need for the animal. The managers feel they’re being “worked,” by residents who want to circumvent landlord policies limiting pets.
Although, to some, the need for such an accommodation may seem unrealistic or exaggerated, medical science is continually proving that pets DO provide quantifiable health benefits. The Delta Society has a number of articles on its website pointing to medical research that substantiates these facts: Continue reading “The Healing Benefit of Pets”→