April is Fair Housing month. If you are a landlord or just a neighbor there are some things you should know about the laws that protect certain classes of people. In some cases the people your neighbors may find less than desirable to your neighborhood may have better protections than you and your neighbors. We know of one “Neighborhood Watch” neighborhood where a convicted pedophile moved in with a relative. This normally quiet neighborhood soon became abuzz with rumor as the relative whom the offender was moving in with informed neighbors of the pending arrival.
Some activists went door to door with the announcement of a neighborhood meeting to sound the alarm and elevate alert levels. As the heated crowd began announcing ideas of what action to take, a level-headed guest interrupted the enthusiastic meeting. He began by stating he was a former police officer and current minister. He empathized with the fear exhibited by the crowd — especially the impassioned voices of parents of young children — but admonished the neighbors to proceed with caution.
Not only should this person be given privacy and personal space, but if they feel any intimidation or harassment they could file a fair housing complaint. It wouldn’t cost anything to file and if the complaint was found substantiated, the offending party could be liable for a $16,000 fine even as a first-time offender.
Some neighborhoods have old CCRs (Conditions Covenants and Restrictions) in their association documents that are prejudicial or even offensive. Even some newer ones show ignorance of fair housing like this: “No (one) shall at any time conduct or permit to be conducted any trade or commercial business of any description either commercial or non-commercial including religious or otherwise…” A quick call to Monica Fabbi, investigator with the Intermountain Fair Housing Council proved this statement prejudicial. She was quick to condemn the language as discriminatory.
The IFHC’s stated purpose is “to advance equal access to housing for all persons without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or source of income. The IFHC attempts to eradicate discrimination through education on fair housing laws, housing information and referrals, housing counseling, and enforcement including testing and filing complaints under the Fair Housing Act.”
The reference to testing means actors may be sent to see what treatment they are given in an attempt to buy or rent a property. These “testers” then will report to IFHC and file warranted complaints that could result in serious fines.
According to Fabbi, the most common complaint in our area is landlords refusing to allow modifications to their properties to accommodate those with disabilities. She states, “Much of the trouble in your area is similar to the rest of the state in that people with disabilities don’t know they are protected by the Fair Housing Act and/or do not know how to exercise their rights.” IFHC encourages inquiries at (208) 383-0695. You can learn more at its website; www.http://ifhcidaho.org. There you will see the friendly reminder, “Fair Housing. It’s not an option, it’s the law.”
Trust an expert … call a Realtor. Call your Realtor or visit www.cdarealtors.com to search properties on the Multiple Listing Service or to find a Realtor member who will represent your best interests.
Kim Cooper is a real estate broker and the spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors. Kim and the association invite your feedback and input for this column. You may contact them by writing to the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors, 409 W. Neider, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815 or by calling (208) 667-0664.