April is fair housing month
A condo resident with limited ambulatory ability requests a handicap parking space, but the homeowners' association tells her that if they provide her an assigned space, they will have to give everyone an assigned space. A mentally disabled resident requests an accommodation to keep his forty pound dog, a service animal, in his apartment. The apartment manager denies the request, stating that the dog might scare the other tenants.
A couple is told over the phone that an apartment is available, only to be told that it was just rented when they show up in person - one person is black, and the other is white. A Hispanic couple is asked to provide a green card and a Social Security card when they attempt to rent; a white couple is allowed to rent without such ID. A husband and wife with three children are told that they can't rent a two bedroom apartment because their rule states only two children per bedroom.
Think these examples are made up? They aren't. This goes on in 2012. Fortunately, there are laws to protect people when incidents like this happen.
April marks the 44th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. This act was passed by Congress on April 11, 1968. This law prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap, and familial status. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968). The South Carolina Fair Housing Law is substantially equivalent to the Fair Housing Act. The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission enforces these laws.
Discrimination in housing is more subtle today; however, it still exists. Some discrimination is due to ignorance, and some of it is due to intolerance. In April, we celebrate the progress we've made while acknowledging that there is still much to be done.
Everyone deserves the right to enjoy their dwellings, free from discrimination. Many people aren't aware of their rights. One of the Commission's goals is to make sure people are aware of their fair housing rights. Discrimination will not end if people don't report it.
This year's theme is “Live Free,” and no, that does not mean that people get the opportunity live rent-free or mortgage-free. It means that people deserve the right to live where they wish without having to deal with artificial barriers of discrimination. The law by itself is useless unless people know about it and are willing to report discrimination. Part of the solution is two-fold. Residents need to know their rights, and they must be willing to report discrimination when it occurs.
Housing providers need to be more aware of the law, and they need to make sure that they are committed to following the law.
Illegal housing discrimination can take many forms - some very subtle. Realtors may refuse to show clients homes or apartments in certain neighborhoods; agents may advertise to preferred groups of people; insurance agents may deny property insurance; bankers may refuse to approve a loan; property managers may refuse to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Housing discrimination can occur when people are trying to rent, buy sell, or finance a home. This can happen to a tenant or a homeowner.
People need to know their rights and the protections provided by the law.
For more information, contact Ralph Haile at (803) 737-7800; e-mail him at Ralph@schac.sc.gov; or contact Delaine A. Frierson at (803) 737-7831; e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, discrimination won't stop if you don't report it.
Delaine A. Frierson
Director, Fair Housing
South Carolina Human Affairs Commission
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