April is Fair Housing Month, which is a great time for both tenants and property owners to study up on their respective rights and responsibilities. But believe it or not, some people aren't even required to comply with fair housing legislation.
Federal and state laws prohibit rental owners, property managers, and landlords from discriminating against certain groups in any aspect of renting residential real estate, including advertising and tenant screening. However, these laws exempt certain properties.
Single-family homes rented without the use of a real estate agent or advertising are exempt from the federal Fair Housing Act as long as the private landlord/owner doesn't own more than three homes at the time.
Apartments of four units or less are also exempt if the owner lives in one of the units. However, even if this multifamily exemption applies to you, your rental advertising must still comply with the Act.
Other exemptions include the rental of a single room in a home, qualified senior housing, and housing operated by religious or private organizations, if certain requirements are met.
Regardless of the federal exemptions, many local and state jurisdictions have their own fair housing laws, often with additional protected classes and different exemptions. For example, California's fair housing law covers any form of housing which can be described as a "business establishment"—a term which courts have broadly interpreted to include almost every type of housing. Accordingly, the owner-occupied multifamily homes and the single-family homes exempted under the federal fair housing law are not exempt from the California law.
Even if you are exempt under state or federal fair housing laws, those laws were enacted to prevent discrimination in the provision of shelter—a basic human need. Renting in a way that is consistent with the spirit of the law isn't only good business, it might also protect your karma.
As always, the information provided here is for informational purposes only and under no circumstances whatsoever should it be considered legal advice. If you have any particular questions or issues, please consult an attorney.