Fair housing is your right as a United States citizen, and Pennsylvania Fair Housing laws work to ensure that.
Buying a house is a significant event in someone’s life. Everyone dreams of the perfect house that they can turn into a home where they can build memories with their family. Fair housing is an issue for all people because everyone deserves to know their rights.
It is especially important for Pennsylvania real estate agents to know what this term means to make sure they abide by the law and give everyone a fair chance.
What does “Fair Housing” mean?
Fair housing, also known as equal opportunity housing, is an act of law to make sure that there legally cannot be any discrimination in real estate transactions in the U.S. It’s a way to make sure that (you guessed it!) everyone has an equal opportunity to fair housing no matter who they are.
Fair Housing Act of 1968
Before this act was put into law, people had experienced discrimination when searching for housing. People were unfairly denied opportunities for housing based upon circumstances beyond their control. The Fair Housing Act built upon previous laws by prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and sex.
Citizens are also safeguarded further by state and local laws, which often provide broader coverage and prohibit discrimination based on additional classes not covered by federal law.
This means that Pennsylvania has its own specific Fair Housing rules and regulations that must be abided by for any real estate transactions.
Expanding on the Fair Housing Act
Along with the Fair Housing Act, the Supreme Court also weighed in on housing laws. It’s important to know the Supreme Court decision, 1968: Jones v. Mayer determined the following:
There will be no racial discrimination in any housing based on the following characteristics:
Equal opportunity to housing is the law. It is illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on:
Physical or mental disability
The Supreme Court of the United States holds the final word on laws and upholding whether they are constitutional or not. In this case, they upheld all aspects of the Fair Housing Act and expanded upon it. This decision definitively solidifies the law of the Fair Housing Act.
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
As we stated, each state further upholds the Fair Housing Act by enforcing their own, more local fair housing laws. In Pennsylvania, this is known as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and it is enforced by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act includes everything covered in the federal Fair Housing Act, but it also has some additions/coverage that is state-specific.
For example, in Pennsylvania, real estate professionals cannot discriminate against people who use a support animal or are a handler or trainer of such support animals. This means that if the building does not allow animals, but a renter/buyer has a support animal, that person and animal must be allowed to live on the premises.
Examples of Housing Discrimination in Pennsylvania
Here are some examples of what housing discrimination looks like according to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission website:
Saying a home is rented when it is still available, because the owner does not want to rent to someone of the applicant’s race.
Setting different terms and conditions for sale or rental of a property due to a person having a disability.
Charging a fee for a support animal (s).
Refusing to rent to families with children under the age of 18.
Refusing a request from a tenant with a disability for closer parking.
Denying maintenance requests because of age.
Not providing the same services to an individual who filed a discrimination complaint in retaliation for filing the complaint.
Denying a loan request based on factors such as sex.
While some of these may be similar to fair housing laws in other states, they can also vary. These stipulations are specific to Pennsylvania.
What if the discrimination is unintended or happens unknowingly?
Even if you didn’t intend to discriminate against a client, you are still responsible for the actions and consequences of unintended discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination does not have to be intentional to be illegal under the Fair Housing Act. Certain laws or policies may have disparate impacts that unintentionally cause discrimination and segregation.