Virginia Fair Housing Act: An Overview
Fair housing laws are among the many landlord-tenant laws that you have to familiarize yourself with as a landlord. This law applies to landlords of any portfolio size, whether you’re just getting started with your first property or you own a couple of dozen.
The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the Virginia Fair Housing Laws.
What Does Fair Housing Mean?
Every American has the fundamental right to equal housing opportunity. This means that landlords must treat all prospective tenants equally and without discrimination based on protected characteristics.
Whether you are carrying out a tenant screening process, breaking lease agreements, or advertising your property, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of these laws.
What Is the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968?
The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 is a component of the Civil Rights Act. Also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act.
The original act made it illegal for housing players like landlords to discriminate against their tenants based on certain protected classes. This includes, race, color, religion, and nationality. The act was again amended in 1974 to add sex as a protected class. A further amendment added disability and familial status into the list of protected classes at the federal level.
Today, the Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for landlords, home sellers, and mortgage lenders to discriminate against their clients based on 7 protected classes. That is, race, color, sex, nationality, disability, religion, and familial status.
Who Is Covered by the Virginia Fair Housing Law?
Various states, including the state of Virginia, have also passed laws adding further protections. Virginia Fair Housing Law makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate based on the following classes.
- Familial status
- Income source
- Military status
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
Who Does the Virginia Fair Housing Law and Regulations Apply To?
Essentially, any person or entity that is involved in the process of securing housing must follow Fair Housing Laws, including:
- Property owners and managers
- Insurance providers
- Homeowner associations
- Mortgage lenders and brokers
- Real estate agents
What Special Protections Are There for People With Disabilities?
Fair Housing Law requires that landlords provide reasonable accommodations to disabled tenants. As a landlord, you can do this by modifying or changing a rule or policy that can allow a disabled tenant to enjoy their rented premises.
For instance, if you have a no-pet policy, you may want to make an exception for disabled individuals who have assistance animals.
In addition, FHA also requires that you make reasonable modifications to your unit if requested by a disabled tenant. Examples of reasonable requests include the following.
- Permitting a disabled tenant to transfer to a ground-floor unit.
- Assigning a disabled tenant an accessible parking space.
- Installing a grab bar in the bathroom.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act?
Yes, there are a few limited exceptions to the Fair Housing Act. They are as follows.
- Dwellings that have four or fewer units and the owner occupies one of them.
- A single-family house that the owner advertises themselves. The owner must, however, not own more than three such homes at any given time.
- Elderly housing communities.
What Agency Is Responsible for the Enforcement of the Fair Housing Laws in Virginia?
In Virginia, it’s the Fair Housing Board that is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Fair Housing Law.
How Can Landlords Provide Fair Housing?
Now that you are familiar with the basics of fair housing, the following are a few things you will want to keep in mind.
- Use non-discriminatory language when advertising your property for rent. Refrain from using language such as, "Adults Preffered," or "Perfect for couples."
- Ask proper tenant screening questions that are not based on a prospective tenant’s protected class.
- Subject the same screening criteria to all prospective tenants.
- Treat all tenants equally when you start renting out your property.
- Accept all tenant applications. You can only deny an application if, for example, it is for a tenant who is not capable of paying rent. You can not deny an application because they belong to a protected class.
- Conduct background checks on every applicant, regardless of their protected class.
- Keep the price of rent the same for all interested potential tenants
- Be truthful and transparent with your answers to any tenant's questions
Treating tenants equally and fairly is your responsibility as a landlord under Virginia laws. At Redsail, we encourage landlords to familiarize themselves with fair housing laws, and treat all tenants with equal respect and consideration.
If you have more questions or need expert help in managing your rental property, Redsail Property Management can help. We provide full-service property management services to property owners in Hampton Roads. Get in touch to learn more!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this information may become obsolete at the time you read it. For further help, please get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.