An article about Fair Housing written by SMLA Member, Susie Kendeigh.
I recently attended a Fair Housing Workshop presented by the Maine Human Rights Commission, Pine Tree Legal and HUD. It was a great refresher to ensure I am being fair (and legal) when I take applicant calls and applications for my rental units.
The impetus of the workshop was HUD’s new rule: In February, HUD issued a rule formalizing the standard on discriminatory effects in housing. Sexual orientation, persons with disabilities and harassment were covered in depth. Items that stood out were:
A landlord cannot ask if an applicant has a disability.
A person with a disability has the right to request reasonable accommodation including a change to a policy (i.e. no animals) or service or a change to the physical property at their expense.
Pet policies are not the same for service animals. Landlords cannot discriminate on dog breed for service animals or charge additional deposits or cleaning fees.
If you claim that your insurance won’t cover certain breeds of dogs, this can be seen as a pattern of discrimination and you may be investigated.
Concerns for safety or liability (lead paint, dangerous intersection, steep stairs, balconies, etc.) do not justify refusal to rent.
It is of note that Maine Law covers more than Federal Law. It adds protection for sexual orientation, receipt of public assistance and national ancestry. However, owner occupied duplexes are not covered under state law.
During the workshop, a private landlord questioned if there are similar legal services for landlords and Pine Tree lawyer gave two suggestions: Legal Services for the Elderly for landlords over 60 year of age and Volunteer Lawyers Project (sister to Pine Tree Legal). Two staff members of the MHRC staff offered to take phone calls from landlords and to give advice: Jill Duson, Compliance Manager and Barbara Leli, Investigative Supervisor. 207-624-6290
Of all of the papers that were distributed during the workshop, I found this to be the best quick reference tool:
Landlord Rights: You have the right to choose the best tenant for your unit. You can select tenants using the following criteria as long as the criteria apply equally to all applicants:
References from previous landlords
Income and subsidy sufficient to pay the rent
Criminal record check
You can ask for date of birth only for those responsible for the lease.
Vitalius Real Estate Group
Owner, 22 units in Portland
306 Congress St., Suite 3,
Portland, ME 04101