The Fair Housing Act is designed to ensure fair treatment for renters, buyers, and sellers in real estate transactions – to end discriminatory practices in any housing-related activities. Its purpose, then, is to ensure that all people who apply for housing are treated the same. The act lays out everything that could be construed as discriminatory for lenders, landlords, buyers, sellers, and renters – especially regarding membership in a certain class. Because Fair Housing Laws in Massachusetts prohibit discrimination in the buying, selling, renting, or financing of housing, you must make sure you are in compliance when engaging in ay real estate transaction.
If you have specific questions about The Fair Housing Act, our broker Rory Gill is also a practicing real estate attorney in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We got your back (and we even have a podcast about real estate law that you might want to check out)
Here’s a brief guide to understanding Fair Housing laws in Boston.
Overview of Fair Housing Laws in Boston
“The Fair Housing Act,” experts explain, “is a law that was created to put an end to discriminatory practices involving activities related to housing. The Act was created with the belief that every person has the right to rent a home, purchase a home, or get a mortgage on a home without being afraid of discrimination due to their membership in a certain class of people.” The upshot of this is that Fair Housing laws in Boston have important implications for both buyers and sellers.
Really, though, attempts to put such laws in place are nothing new, having been around since about the middle of the nineteenth century. But these attempts didn’t really get anywhere till the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The two important forerunners of the Fair Housing laws were the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of1964. Then in 1968, just one week after the assassination of Dr. MartinLuther King, the Fair Housing Act was established.
Goals of Fair Housing Laws
fair housing laws in Boston have one overarching goal: to protect people from discrimination in housing matters, such as selling, renting, and getting a mortgage. Discriminatory actions these laws protect people from include:
- Refusal in renting, selling, or negotiating housing
- Being lied to about the availability of housing
- Different treatment when it comes to terms and conditions in renting or selling a home
- Sale of homes under false pretenses (“blockbusting”)
- Different amenities and/or accommodations for different people
- Refusal to purchase or make a loan
- Refusal to make mortgage loan information available
- Discrimination in appraising
- Class bias in advertisements
- Threatening or interfering with Fair Housing rights
Protected Classes Under Fair Housing Laws
Currently, under the Fair Housing laws in Boston, there are seven categories of protection:
- national origin
- Sex (since 1974)
- Disability(since 1988)
- Family status (another 1988 addition referring primarily to pregnant women and people with minor children)
- Sexual orientation (since 2017 and assumed rather than explicit)
- gender identity (also added in 2017 and also assumed rather than explicit)
Enforcement of Fair Housing Laws
Enforcement of Fair Housing laws has presented certain problems because of “inconsistencies across local jurisdictions.” Still, anyone who believes her rights have been violated “can file a lawsuit in federal district court or file a claim with HUD. Officially, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD is fully responsible for the Fair Housing Act.”
HUD’s two major enforcement methods for Fair Housing laws in Boston are:
Investigation of discrimination claims – Whenever a discrimination claim is filed, HUD sends a team to investigation the claim. If investigators find the claim has merit, HUD proceeds to determine the best course of action for that particular claim.
Use of Fair Housing Testers– HUD also deploy testers to find out whether sellers and landlords are in compliance with Fair Housing laws in Massachusetts. It works like this: people pose as tenants and homebuyers to see whether there is any infringement of rights. (If you are a landlord or seller, you would do well to keep this in mind. To find out more about staying in compliance, contact us at (617) 657-9811.)
Penalties for violating Fair Housing laws in Boston can be pretty severe – even for innocent, inadvertent violations. Penalties are based on the kind and egregiousness of the violation, for example:
- Simple discrimination – Fine, a year’s imprisonment (maximum), or both
- The use, attempted use, or threatened use of dangerous weapons, explosives, or fire – Fine, 10 years’ imprisonment (maximum), or both
- Bodily injury – Fine, 10 years’ imprisonment (maximum), or both
- Discrimination resulting in attempted/actual death, attempted/actual kidnapping, or attempted/actual aggravated sexual abuse – Fine, up to life imprisonment, or both
Ensure Compliance With Fair Housing Laws
Those are indeed some pretty harsh penalties for noncompliance or violations of Fair Housing laws in Boston. So to avoid legal action, you absolutely must ensure compliance. The problem, though, is that it’s easy to make a misstep through simple ignorance or inadvertence. Your best bet, then, is to lean on your local agent’s knowledge and expertise. Find out how our agents can help you avoid non-compliance issues.
Learn more about fair housing laws in Boston!
Contact us today! (617) 657-9811
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