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Understanding Your Obligations Under The Fair Housing Act

One of the largest challenges faced by housing cooperatives is complying with the federal Fair Housing Act. Allegations of discriminatory practices can propel property owners into costly and time-consuming litigation. The lawyers at Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak, P.C., can minimize your potential exposure to fair housing disputes by providing you with additional training from a cooperative attorney’s perspective, legal guidance and assistance with compliance.

Below are some responses to common questions we receive.

What Is The Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against individuals who are at any point in the home buying or renting process. This includes buying or renting a home, obtaining a mortgage, asking about housing assistance, or seeking any other type of housing-related guidance. Prospective home buyers or renters are protected from discrimination based on race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability and familial status.

What Protections Should Cooperatives Know About?

Housing cooperatives should be aware of the protected statuses listed above and that it is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on these characteristics. This means cooperatives are prohibited from denying housing, negotiating a sale, or denying a sale based on these characteristics. Cooperatives should also be aware of accommodations or modifications that may be granted to those with disabilities. For example, a resident with a disability must be permitted to make reasonable accommodations to their residence.

After a Complaint Is Filed, What Happens Next?

If an applicant alleges a violation of the act, they may file a complaint which is then sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) will then investigate the complaint to determine if the cooperative acted with discrimination. If the investigation determines that discrimination was present, the next step is a hearing with a judge from the HUD. The case can also skip this step and proceed as a civil action if either side wishes to take this route instead.

How Can Co-ops Make Determinations Without Violating The Fair Housing Act?

Co-op communities routinely make decisions based on which applicant is the best fit for the community. However, it is critical that the board develops a system to review applicants that does not reject solely based on the protected characteristics listed above. An experienced attorney from Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak, P.C., can assist with setting up a process that works for your board.

We Can Answer Your Questions

Our lawyers are available for you. We reply promptly to communications and can begin your initial consultation as soon as possible. To contact our offices in Michigan and Illinois, complete our online contact form and request your appointment. You may also call our Wyandotte office at 773-435-9064 or our Chicago office at 773-435-9064.

Check out the PCK National Cooperative Law Center for additional resources and guidance for Boards and Management covering fair housing.