Nevada prohibits housing discrimination based on 9 protected classes. These protected classes are: color, race, disability, familial status, national origin, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, sex, and religion.
Forms of discrimination may involve interest rates, purchase terms, insurance rates, security deposits, lease terms, and availability of housing.
Landlords also have a responsibility of ensuring their properties are friendly to the disabled. As a landlord, there may be no worse situation than finding yourself in a fair housing conflict when you rent out your house.
Not only can it be expensive and time-consuming, but you won't be fulfilling your obligation to your tenants.
What is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 by Congress. It was passed with the sole intention of stamping out all forms of discrimination in housing.
At the federal level, it prohibits discrimination on 7 protected classes. These proected classes are: race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, and sex.
Some states, including Nevada, have also passed their own laws to expand on this list. Nevada added two protected classes: sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Which government body enforces the Act?
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charged with enforcing the Act. It checks for discriminatory practices in housing in two forms.
The first method of enforcement comes in the form of hiring people to pose as renters. The goal here is to see whether the landlord is discriminating against certain renters or not.
The second main way is by carrying out investigations involving housing discrimination. After a complainant files a claim with them, they will carry out their independent assessment and see whether the claims amount to acts of discrimination.
What acts can be deemed discriminatory by the HUD?
An important step in attracting and retaining desirable tenants is to learn and respect federal and state housing laws and avoid discrimination.
Discrimination can occur in three main ways:
In Mortgage Lending:
This happens when a lender bases their credit decisions on factors beyond the applicant’s creditworthiness.
According to the FHA, it’s illegal to discriminate against a borrower based on protected characteristics. The following actions are examples of discriminatory actions.
- Conditioning the availability of a loan on a person’s response to harassment.
- Discriminating in a dwelling’s appraisal.
- Imposing varying terms and/or conditions on a loan. For instance, setting different fees, points, and rates based on the borrower’s characteristics.
- Refusing to provide information regarding loans.
In the Sale of Housing:
Doing any of the following based on a protected characteristic would amount to discrimination:
- Denying membership or access to any real estate brokers’ organization or multiple listing service.
- Trying to persuade, for profit, any homeowner to sell their home by making a suggestion that people of a certain protected class are moving into the area. This is also referred to as blockbusting.
- Assigning people to particular neighborhoods or buildings.
- Discouraging people of certain characteristic from purchasing a certain property.
- Harassing a person.
- Imposing varying sales prices based on a protected characteristic.
- Publishing an ad in respect to the sale of a property that indicates preference to certain people over others.
- Falsely denying that a home is available for sale or inspection.
- Setting varying sale conditions.
- Making housing unavailable to people of certain protected characteristics.
- Refusing to sell housing.
Discrimination against renters by landlords based on a protected characteristic is also illegal.
Nevada landlords should treat all prospective tenants fairly and equally regardless of their race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and national origin.
The following are examples of scenarios that may be deemed to be discriminatory towards tenants:
- Refusing to rent an apartment to a blind man because he has a seeing-eye dog.
- Evicting a female tenant and her family from their apartment because she refused your sexual advances.
- Charging a minority tenant a higher rent amount or larger security deposit than their white counterparts.
- Refusing to rent to rent to a single woman, but renting to a single man.
- Using different tenant screening processes based on the applicant’s race. For instance, using credit issues on black and hispanic applicants as an excuse to refuse renting an apartment to them, but overlooking the same on white applicants.
- Evicting a white tenant from her home because she has black friends over.
- Making housing unavailable. For instance, telling a black person that a unit they saw on a newspaper ad is no longer available. But as it turns out, the apartment is still available for white applicants.
- Refusing to rent to a person who has a mental disability.
When writing your property listings, it's important to keep a close eye out for any clauses or terms that could be considered discriminatory.
In addition, the FHA makes it illegal to retaliate, threaten, coerce, or intimidate against a person based on a protected characteristic.
What are the penalties for violating the FHA in Nevada?
If you are found to have violated the Act, the following are examples of some of the penalties you could face:
- You can be sued by the HUD. You’d then need to attend multiple hearings and present your side of the story.
- You could have to pay the complainant up to $65 000 in damages.
- You could also have to pay punitive damages where clear evidence or malicious or willful intent was committed.
- A court can also issue an injunction, especially where they think prompt action was necessary to prevent further harm.
Moreover, HUD stores all records that complainants have filed and makes them publicly available. As a landlord, this can ruin your reputation.
How can a Nevada landlord avoid discrimination claims?
- Set uniform terms and conditions. For instance, don’t enforce lease terms differently for different people. If you charge a late fee for late rents, then be sure to do so for all tenants.
- Handle all maintenance requests on time. If you respond to urgent requests within 24 hours, then do so for all tenants.
- Avoid discriminatory statements when advertising your rental. Avoid statements such as “white folks preferred,” “ideal for females,” “no children allowed,” and “ideal for a professional.”
- Avoid questions that tenants would misconstrue as discriminatory during tenant screening. For example, “are you married?” “Where are your parents from?” “Do you have any children?”
Do you still have questions about what constitutes discrimination in Nevada? If you do, Evolve Nevada can help. We are a leading property management company in Northern Nevada.
At Evolve, we provide professional services for student housing, single family homes, multi-family homes, and commercial properties.