1: What words are prohibited under Fair Housing Laws?
A: Any word can be discriminatory depending upon context and usage. Words descriptive of race, color, sex, religion, creed, national origin, familial status or handicap should never be used. Words suggestive of an intent to unlawfully exclude any person or group should be avoided. It is always best to err on the side of caution; “close calls” should be handled by brokerage management, in consultation with legal counsel.
2: When advertising a property can handicap accessibility features such as a wheelchair ramp be advertised?
A: Yes. For fair housing purposes, you want your ad to describe the property you are marketing not the buyers or tenants you are looking for. If a property has a wheelchair ramp or any accessibility feature the fair housing laws do not prohibit including this feature in your ads for the property.
3: I have a home listed in an area zoned for single family housing. The city zoning regulation includes a provision that no more than five unrelated people can live together. There is an organization interested in buying the property to set up a group home for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. There would be 10 to 12 recovering addicts in the group home. If the zoning regulation was challenged, how likely is it that the city would prevail?
A: The Fair Housing laws prohibit discrimination against the handicapped which includes recovering drug and alcohol addicts. The Fair Housing laws do permit local authorities to establish reasonable occupancy standards, such as limiting the number of occupants based on the number of bedrooms or size of the unit. However, some cities and towns have tried to restrict group homes in single family neighborhoods by limiting the number of unrelated people who can live together. Historically, the courts have not upheld these zoning regulations. The courts have found the regulations to discriminate against the handicapped and to go beyond the cities ability to set reasonable occupancy standards because they not only limit the number of occupants but also the type of occupants.