The Fair Housing Act came into law in 1968, necessitated by the rampant cases of housing discrimination that existed at the time. Now, thanks to the Michigan Fair Housing Laws, landlords carry many responsibilities.
We at Nelson Property Management have put together this a basic overview of the Michigan Fair Housing Act so all landlords understand their basic responsibilities and avoid discrimination based behaviour.
The Protected Characteristics in the State of Michigan
Michigan Fair Housing and Civil Rights Act came into existence to protect people against housing-related discrimination based issues. Unlike some other states, Michigan is yet to pass local laws adding more another protected class to the list (currently: race color religion sex). As such, the protected classes (such as gender identity, sexual orientation or familial status) at the federal level are the same as those at the state level and these include but are not limited to:
- Physical or mental disability
- Sexual orientation or Gender identity
- National Origin
- Marital status or Familial status discrimination
The Types of Properties Covered by the Michigan Fair Housing Laws
Michigan Housing Laws cover most types of housing. In limited circumstances, it exempts the following types of housing:
- Owner-occupied buildings having a maximum of four units.
- Single-family houses that are sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent.
- Housing operated by religious organizations.
- Private clubs.
Enforcement of the Michigan Fair Housing Act
At the state level, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the government agency tasked with enforcement of the act.
Penalties for Violating the Michigan Fair Housing Act?
Violating the Michigan Housing Laws can carry significant financial and legal penalties. For example: $10,000 for first-time violators and $50,000 for a third violation within 7 years. Additionally, you may need to pay court costs and attorney fees.
Violations of the Michigan Fair Housing Act
Michigan offers equal housing opportunity for everyone. So violations of the Michigan Housing Laws include, but are not limited to:
- Telling a prospective tenant that your rental unit isn’t available when it is.
- Using a different screening procedure or rental application process for different tenants based on a protected characteristic (such as familial status).
- Asking tenants illegal screening questions (such as asking their marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity).
- Charging a pet deposit for an assistance animal for a disabled tenant. Even with a no pet policy, it’s unlawful to deny housing to a disabled tenant solely based on having a support animal.
- Threatening, coercing, intimidating, interfering or prohibit such access to a property to anyone exercising their right to fair housing.
- Creating an advertisement that indicates limitation or preference based on a protected characteristic (such as sexual orientation). For example, stating “suitable for a male tenant,” “ideal for a single professional,” or stating, “no children allowed.”
- Requiring renters with certain characteristics to pay an additional security deposit, but not others.
As a landlord, Michigan Fair Housing Laws gives you a legal and moral responsibility to ensuring you treat all tenants equally. Meaning, even if you were to request an extra deposit for a non-discriminatory reason, the renter may feel they have been discriminated against. Consequently, they may choose to file a legitimate claim against you for violating fair housing rights.
As a landlord, housing discrimination claims can take a huge toll on your rental investment. The following are a couple of things you can do to ensure you are always on the right side of the Michigan Housing Laws.
Drafting a Rental Advert
At some point in your career as a landlord, your rental unit will become vacant after a tenant moves out. When re-renting it, you must be careful not to include statements that may violate Michigan Housing Laws.
Avoid statements such as: “Not ideal for Children,” or “Christian Home.” Basically, avoid any statement that shows preference or limitation based on a protected characteristic. If you have any questions regarding adhering to the Michigan Housing Laws, the best idea would be to contact a legal professional or an experienced property management company.
Consistent Screening Process
Of course, as a savvy landlord, you’ll always want to rent to the best tenants. But regardless of your goal, you have a responsibility of ensuring that your screening process adheres to the Michigan Housing Laws and the Michigan Landlord-Tenant Laws.
You must ensure your screening process is consistent and includes reasonable accommodation for those protected by the fair housing act.
Apply the same qualifying standards and reasonable accommodation to each prospective tenant equally. This includes making sure your questioning doesn’t potentially infringe on any protected characteristic described by the Michigan Fair Housing Laws.
If you have specific questions such as getting Michigan legal help, hire the services of a qualified Michigan attorney. Alternatively, you can seek help from a knowledgeable property management company like Nelson Property Management.
Disclaimer: This blog is not a substitute for expert Michigan legal help. Laws change and it might no longer be up to date. For expert legal advice, get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.