Avoiding housing discrimination claims is a must for any Massachusetts landlord. Such claims come with enormous penalties and exposure, and are frequently litigated in Massachusetts.
Even landlords with the best intentions can have problems with these matters if they are not careful. Here, I’ll discuss three tips to help landlords avoid housing discrimination claims.
Know the Law
While it may sound obvious, knowing the law is the most important tip for avoiding housing discrimination claims. Both state and federal law prohibit housing discrimination. State law, however, typically provides greater protections for tenants, and is the law that landlords should pay particular attention to.
I’m sometimes asked about exceptions to fair housing laws. Some exist, but in my opinion, landlords are best to assume that they are covered by all applicable housing discrimination laws. Doing so keeps one’s potential liability to a minimum.
Emotional support animals, in particular, have become an increasingly large source of these claims. I’ve written and presented on this topic in the past.
Keep Detailed Records For All Applicants and Tenants
As with every landlord-tenant matter, landlords should keep detailed records on all matters concerning applicants and tenants. Housing discrimination claims often come up months (and sometimes years) after the alleged discrimination occurred. Having good records is the key to defending against such charges.
Be Consistent With All Applicants and Tenants
Housing discrimination often arises when an applicant or tenant believes they were treated differently than a similar, other applicant or tenant. To avoid potential discrimination claims, landlords should be consistent in their dealings with such persons.
For example, a landlord should use similar questions when reviewing all potential applicants for tenants. If it is learned that a landlord required certain information from one applicant that was not requested from another, this can be grounds for a potential discrimination claim.
Landlords sometimes believe that housing discrimination requires landlords to rent to those tenants under these protected classification. This is incorrect: housing discrimination simply means that a landlord cannot treat an applicant or tenant differently solely due to their protected classification. If the landlord has a non-discriminatory basis for their conduct, this can be a defense to a charge of discrimination.
Housing discrimination claims are a nightmare for landlords. Avoiding such matters is the easiest way of limiting a landlord’s liability from such claims. If you need assistance with such a matter, contact me for a consultation.