In the first half of 2013, ten discrimination complaints were filed with the anti-discrimination division by the Disability Law Center (DLC) as a result of fair housing testers.
In each case, the DLC tested the landlords twice and each time found them to be discriminating. Of the ten cases, two have been settled so far. Settlements included landlords agreeing to take fair housing training and making contributions to the DLC to offset the costs of testing.
When the DLC tests, they generally use paired testers. This means they send (or have call on the phone) two renters, one who is a protected class, and they measure if the two prospective renters are treated the same.
One tester is not in a protected class (the “control” tester). The other is the “protected class” tester. The tests are done on the same day, to the same leasing person or landlord. If any red flags are discovered, the DLC orders a second test. If both tests suggest the landlord uses discriminatory practices, a complaint is filed with the state. Findings of discrimination can result in fines of $10,000 for first time offenders. The most effective way to avoid red flags from paired testing is to be sure to treat every prospect the same.
What are Red Flags?
A landlord recently called after receiving a letter from the state notifying her it was the beginning of an investigation based on this testing. In her case, she had twice been asked (a few weeks apart), if she allowed service animals. Both times she said yes, BUT, both times she told them she charged an extra $500 deposit to have the service animal. That is an illegal practice.
Of 129 tests conducted in the first half of 2013, 44 (34%) found “red flags” suggesting discrimination or discriminatory practice. Some of the red flags included:
- Apartment manager asked about the nature of a person’s disability – (a clear no-no)
- Tester was told there would be $50 additional rent added each month for a service animal
- A protected class tester was told no unit was available while a control tester was told there was one ready now.
- A protected class tester was referred to another complex while a control tester was shown a unit at that complex.
- The control tester was offered move-in special while the protected class tester was not.
The best way to avoid having discrimination complaints filed against you is to understand fair housing law and treat everyone equally.
Reprinted with permission of The Landlord Times.