Fair Housing and Advertising

Fair Housing and Advertising

fhco_logoFollowing is a guest post by Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

I recently reread a 2009 report produced by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) on how internet housing ads perpetuate discrimination. As we can attest from our own office’s investigations, illegal ads are prolific online, decades after the Fair Housing Act made them illegal. Following are some highlights from the report.

There is no disagreement that landlords, real estate agents, and others who create and place these discriminatory ads are legally liable for violating the Fair Housing Act. In passing the Fair Housing Act in 1968, Congress wanted to hold publishers responsible for third parties as a way of eliminating the problem most efficiently.

Every day in the United States, thousands of people view rental advertisements that illegally deny housing to families with children and others protected by the federal Fair Housing Act. Although newspapers have been held liable under the Fair Housing Act for publishing discriminatory housing advertisements with statements such as “no kids,” or “couples only,” the publishers of similar ads on the internet have not been held to the same legal standard.

In order to address this disparity in the law, which holds print advertisements and online advertisements to separate and unequal standards, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) urges Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to make, print, or publish; or cause to be made, printed, or published; housing ads that discriminate, limit, or deny equal access to apartments or homes because of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability. [There are, of course, additional state and locally protected classes.]

In order to comply with the Fair Housing Act, newspapers utilize screening systems to keep advertisements containing discriminatory statements from being printed. [And they’re often much more conservative than fair housing advocates are! Take a look at FHCO’s popular article, The List, for more on this and related urban legends.] However, a legal interpretation of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) holds that interactive internet providers, like Craigslist, are not publishers and therefore are not liable for violating the Fair Housing Act if discriminatory housing ads are published on their sites.

Yet it needn’t be difficult. Internet providers can implement filtering systems just as print publications can (arguably it’d be easier for them to do so) to prevent individuals from posting illegally discriminatory verbiage. Either way, whether or not a site is liable in a given situation (we feel it is), the poster most certainly is!

As a housing provider advertising residential properties, you should know that fair housing advocates such as our office, national groups, and others, periodically comb sites and publications for violations. Our advice: treat any form of advertising—whatever your role is in it—as if it falls under federal, state, and/or local fair housing laws. This includes written, printed, online, posted signs, oral statements, etc., whether free or paid.

During the past year, NFHA and [several of its members] identified more than 7,500 discriminatory ads placed by housing providers on various websites. Yet, only 1,000 complaints have been filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because both HUD and private fair housing agencies lack the staff and time to work through the cumbersome process required to identify and bring these landlords to justice.

Sadly, these ads reinforce the message to public readers that refusing to rent, sell, lend, or insure based on any of the protected classes is acceptable and even legal. What’s more, it confuses those who wish to follow the law or would be inclined to if they were better informed. All the reason for the proactive stance FHCO has always taken on education as a tool to eradicate illegal housing discrimination coupled, of course, with enforcement activities—because the battle won’t be won with a carrot alone.

The Fair Housing Act covers all advertising for the rental or sale of homes as well as advertising for home loans, homeowners/renters insurance, and any service related to housing.

Language in the Fair Housing Act and in the regulations implementing the law makes it clear that the law is also intended to prevent newspapers and other media from publishing advertisements or notices that limit housing to specific individuals or indicate a preference for certain people. The law states:
t shall be unlawful to make, print, or publish or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to the sale of rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on

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The NFHA report identified thousands of ads that violate the Fair Housing Act—in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including Portland and Bend, Oregon. As a result, the national organization filed over a thousand complaints with HUD against posters.

The most common Fair Housing Act violation that NFHA and its members found on the internet was advertising discriminating against families with children. NFHA found ads stating preferences for tenants who were “single” or “a couple of individuals.” Phrases such as “perfect for young couple” or “three adults” were found in ads for houses or apartments with multiple bedrooms. These ads indicate an illegal preference or limitation and discourage families with children from even considering contacting a landlord. [Note: this is different than occupancy standards.]

Many of the properties with such discriminatory language have multiple bedrooms, and would be ideal for families with children. Some examples of discriminatory language identified include:

  • 2BR: “Mature couple or single with no children” NY
  • 3BR: Duplex: “Christian atmosphere” IN
  • 2BR: “PERFECT FOR TWO ADULTS…seeking a maximum of two tenants” CT
  • 2BR: “Couples preferred” IL
  • 4BR: “Looking for responsible adults to enjoy home” VT

Even if these happen to be located in designated senior communities, the description of the community as an “adult community” or the advertising of “no kids allowed” is specifically disallowed by HUD.

A couple of my favorites that touch on other protected classes include:

  • “Looking for a white lady who has a car and that’s drawing a check. No children, teenagers” TN
  • “We’re trying to make cheaper rent available for able-bodied people who can do a few things for themselves.” GA

and from here in Oregon…

  • RV Hookup: “Hopefully we can find someone that is a Christian and loves God with all of their hearts” OR

Be sure you’re well informed and complying with both the letter and the spirit of fair housing laws. Schedule a fair housing class for your staff today, or ask your local association when FHCO will be offering a class through them. In the meantime, visit the newly revised Fair Housing Council of Oregon website and make full use of the information and resources posted there. Sign up for the free FHCO electronic newsletter to keep up to speed with developments in the fair housing world.

Read the full report—For Rent: No Kids! How Internet Housing Advertisements Perpetuate Discrimination.

Fair Housing and Advertising

Fair Housing Testing: What Is It?

fhco_logoFollowing is a guest post by Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

The topic of fair housing testing strikes fear and incites anger in many within the housing industry—independent landlords and professional property managers, sales brokers, mortgage lenders, homeowners’ associations, and other housing providers. Most are very unclear what testing is, and what it isn’t.

First, let me say that as a former REALTOR®, I am well aware that the housing industry is heavily regulated. Legal issues and accompanying regulatory bodies range from licensing law to fair housing law. The Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) is not the only organization that performs testing. Those familiar with the sales world, you might recall when the Oregon Real Estate Agency (OREA) conducted audit tests a few years ago to verify that agents were explaining the then-new Agency Disclosure Pamphlet and presenting it for signature upon “first substantive contact” with a prospective client. This is one more example of testing in the industry.

What is Fair Housing Testing?
Who does it? What are the implications for you in your daily practice?

FHCO is not an enforcement agency. We do however conduct enforcement-related activities such as testing or filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or another regulatory governmental agency (such as Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries), either on our own behalf or in assisting a housing consumer who feels a fair housing violation has been committed against them. We also sometimes file lawsuits with private attorneys, especially if testing evidence supports an allegation of a fair housing violation. Each year we also assist hundreds of housing providers and consumers in resolving fair housing problems in an informal manner, to the satisfaction of both parties. A good deal of our day-to-day work focuses on education and outreach to both housing consumers and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under federal, state, and local fair housing laws (see a list of FHCO classes).

If someone contacts our office with what appears may be a fair housing allegation, we take the information and determine if it is a testable situation. Testing is used to identify ordinary business practices (of a company, an individual, etc) and these practices are usually confirmed with a series of tests. We may use testers who are not simply posing as a housing consumer, but someone who may follow a transaction through to the end and purchase a home, obtain a loan, enter into a lease agreement, etc. These folks aren’t just testers, they’re bonafide prospects currently in the market to buy/lend/lease.

We’d much rather eradicate illegal discrimination through education and making ourselves available for your questions than to “catch” you doing something wrong. Consider us a resource. Did you know that we provide testing as a fee-for-service? Organizations and firms may contract with us to see how staff or members are doing in complying with fair housing laws—the results of these tests are confidential under the terms of the contract.

We also offer a wealth of information available for housing providers on our website. A few pages likely to be of interest:
Housing Provider Information
Public Service Videos
Sample Forms
Translated Materials

Please consider supporting the work we do by joining FHCO today. Support from the housing industry is particularly important as we stand together to ensure housing for all in the spirit of fair housing laws.


Fair Housing and Advertising

What Landlords Don’t Know About Lead

Following is a guest post by Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

Lead poisoning is of greatest concern with respect to children. This you do know…

We did a very informal survey and found that of the over 500 landlords asked, 73% owned or managed pre-1978 properties (over 9700 individual units, in fact) and almost all (91%) knew that young children are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning. That’s good news; this key message from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been received. 

However, we also found:

  • ·         …that 25% still don’t know that HUD and EPA have required lead disclosure in all units built prior to 1978 (including use of a specific brochure on the subject) prior to contract since 1996 (see boxed insert below).
  • ·         … that 41% are still not aware that HUD / EPA have also required disclosure (with use of a different brochure) prior to many repairs or renovations made to pre-78 properties since 2008.
  • ·         …that 50% didn’t know HUD / EPA has required that many repairs or renovations be done by a certified lead-safe contractor since 2010.
  • ·         … that 37% still don’t know it has been illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act [1] to deny housing to an applicant simply because there are children in the household (even in pre-1978 properties) since 1988.

enforcementSuffice it to say the requirements above are real federal regulations housing providers are held liable for knowing and following. And, as recent cases demonstrate, the penalties for non-compliance can be significant.

Learn more about lead disclosure and certification requirements and information about familial status protections go to the FHCO website.

The survey was informative in a few more ways:

Brochures1.  We found there’s confusion surrounding the two different HUD / EPA pamphlets referenced above.  About 1/3 knew of those surveyed knew there were two different brochures; about 1/3 did not realize this; about 1/3 were unsure.  To further confuse the matter, the newer “Renovate Right” pamphlet has been revised [4]. To help clarify the issue, we have provided images of each here.

2.  We learned that over half (52%) didn’t know where to find the pamphlets and their accompanying disclosure forms online.  To be sure you can access these free resources we have included the URL for each here[5]:

Pre-contract Pamphlet:  “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home

Pre-contract Disclosure Form for Rentals

Pre-contract Disclosure Form for Sales

Pre-repair Pamphlet: “Renovate Right

Note that the original “Renovate Right” brochure shows the outside of a house with a front lawn; the predominant color is green with “March 2008” printed on its green back cover.  The revised “Renovate Right” brochure shows an interior shot of a home; the predominant color is pink with “Revised September 2011” printed on its tan back cover. 

The Pre-repair Disclosure Form can be found inside the pre-repair pamplet “Renovate Right.”

3.    Based on survey results, it would appear the majority of landlords are outsourcing required repairs and renovations.  To help you find local professionals trained to assist you we’ve provided the URL for the EPA’s Certified Renovation Firm search tool:

Find Certified Renovation Firms

In addition, if you’re interested in becoming lead-safe certified yourself, use the EPA’s Accredited Renovation Training Programs search tool to find a class near you.

Find Accredited Renovation Training Programs. You can also call the Lead Line at (503) 988-4000 (a free service).

4.  Lastly, our survey told us that over half (64%) didn’t know that a Portland-based nonprofit offers free “living lead safe” workshops, yet 83% indicated they planned to learn more about lead, reduce lead hazards, educate residents about lead, and / or inquire about a lead workshop.  To help facilitate these good intentions, please allow us to introduce you to Community Energy Project (CEP)!

“Living Lead Safe” Workshops:

CEP can be reached at (503) 284-6827 or lead101@communityenergyproject.org.  As a former REALTOR®, I can tell you their “Living Lead Safe” workshop would make an excellent office presentation or a wonderful seminar a sales agent could set up for his/her clientele or even a special offering a property manager could host for residents.  It takes about an hour and I can tell you it is mind blowing! 

Do You Know Why?

If we can extrapolate from the informal survey we conducted, most of you know that children are at the greatest risk of lead poisoning but do you know why that is or why it’s of particular concern in housing?

First of all, while there are other possible sources of lead poisoning, lead hazards are most commonly found in older homes. Lead poisoning can occur by drinking water contaminated with lead, swallowing chips of lead paint, or ingesting lead-based paint dust from remodeling or refinishing projects. 

Lead paint was banned in 1978; however, the housing stock remains and so does the old paint [6]. The National Safety Council reports, 2/3 of homes built before 1940 and 1/2 of homes built between 1940 and 1960 contain lead-based paint. While few homes built after 1960 contain lead paint, consumer advocacy requirements apply to all residences built prior to 1978.

As for why lead affects babies and small children so profoundly it is because lead poisoning causes anemia, digestive problems, and damage to the central nervous system in still-developing bodies. Children exposed to lead can develop brain damage including a variety of learning and behavioral disabilities [7].

The risk to children is compounded by the fact that they (pets too) are often on the floor where lead dust too fine to see can settle and be inadvertently ingested. In addition, children (and pets) have been known on occasion to chew on woodwork within their reach, particularly when they’re teething. Even if you are careful, small children (and pets) can still accidentally ingest paint by chewing on toys that collect tiny paint dust particles.

If you have lead paint on your property and would like it removed, contact a professional. This is not required of a housing provider but if it’s something you’re considering be sure you outsource the work; it is safer to pay a professional to do the removal than to try to do it yourself.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington.  Learn more and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter on the FHCO website.

[1]   Federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children), and disability. Oregon law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors. Washington law covers martial status, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors, and honorably discharged veterans/military status. Additional protected classes have been added in particular geographic areas; visit http://www.FHCO.org/mission.htm and read the section entitled “View Local Protected Classes” for more information.


[3] http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Public-Affairs/press_releases/Press12/

[4] Visit http://www.FHCO.org/pdfs/published%20articles/read_on%20articles/LeadChanges.pdf to learn about the changes and your requirement to use the revised version.

[5] Note that HUD / EPA offer some of these in alternative languages as well.  Visit the HUD and EPA websites to find a comprehensive list.

[6] As long as the lead paint is sealed (painted over) and not chipping or cracking it should pose little health risks.  However, special attention should be given to “friction points” where two painted surfaces rub such as windows and doors.

[7] Symptoms of lead poisoning, according to the National Institute of Health Sciences, include headaches, muscle and joint weakness or pain, excessive tiredness or lethargy, behavioral problems or irritability, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, metallic taste in the mouth, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, and constipation. These symptoms are shared by many other illnesses. However, in cases where the symptoms occur for an extended period of time and no other cause has been found, lead poisoning should be considered.

Fair Housing is Not All Black and White

Following is an article by Nadeen Green, an attorney who has spoken on fair housing topics to residential rental audiences across the country since the Fair Housing Amendments Act’s inception in 1989. 

Here at the Fair Housing Council (FHCO) we make ourselves available to those who feel their fair housing rights have been violated, as well as to those with fair housing questions, including housing providers! If you have a question about your rights or responsibilities under federal, state, and local fair housing laws, please visit us at FHCO online or call our free Hotline at 800/424-3247 Ext. 2.

How can iguanas, “hellos,” and food stamps put you at risk?

You have likely been to fair housing programs or have read articles that dealt with the important topics of race, color, disability, children, national origin, sex, and religion.  (And if that is not the case and you have any role or job in the housing industry, then stop reading this article now—not an easy statement for any author to make—and find a class on fair housing basics pronto.)

But these topics, albeit extremely important, are not the only ones out there. Through state laws and local ordinances, as well as through court cases, the civil rights of the Fair Housing Act continue to expand or are clarified. So here are some things that you may not know about. Even if there is just one topic below that is helpful to you, your reading of this article has been worth it.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my! You know a service animal is not a pet and that you must make reasonable accommodations for people who have a service animal (this usually relates to your pet policies). And while it is highly unlikely that lions, tigers, or bears will be the service animals brought to your community, keep in mind that not all service animals are dogs and cats. And those that are dogs may be providing assistance you never even thought of. From cases or in the news, service animals that take us beyond the guide dog for the blind, or the cat for depression, include

          o Dogs assisting their humans who are diabetic (sensing changes in blood sugar levels);

          o Dogs providing a calming effect for children with FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome);

          o Miniature horses (as guide animals for the blind); this author has had two students in class that had guide horses at their communities;

          o An iguana assisting with depression.

Everyone poops! (Which, by the way, is the title of a children’s book by Taro Gomi that celebrates a very natural process.) Lions, tigers, bears, dogs, cats, horses, and iguanas all poop. But when you reasonably accommodate a person with disabilities and their service animal poops, do you have to clean it up for them? Can you require that the person does this (or arranges to have it done)? The answer to this query is found in the Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 208, Monday, October 27, 2008 at page 63836. You, however, don’t have to look it up because this author will now quote from that as follows: “…a housing provider may establish reasonable rules in lease provisions requiring a person with a disability to pick up and dispose of his or her assistance animal’s waste.”  Now, before we leave this intriguing topic, may I suggest to you Service Dog Central as a website resource to help you keep current on service dog issues.

Pet lovers protected too? Well, not yet. But there has been discussion in San Francisco (let’s refrain from making any comment whatsoever about California) to consider a prohibition of housing discrimination against responsible pet owners. That bears watching.

Merhaba.  If your community participates in the Project Based Section 8 program or if you receive HOME or CDBG funds, you are supposed to be compliant with HUD’s Limited English Proficiency (LEP) guidelines. If you are not familiar with these, then wisdom would dictate you find out more about this and proceed accordingly. <You can read up on the subject at www.FHCO.org/lep.htm.> Those of you at conventional communities have no FHA duty to those with LEP. But just because you don’t have to do anything in this regard, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Why? Prospects, applicants and residents for whom you facilitate based on language challenges are happy. Why do you care? Happy people don’t sue you (or at least not as often as unhappy people, although for purposes of disclosure, let me point out that this has not been statistically established; i.e., I made it up). But to avoid some of the issues related to national origin (the usual basis for LEP) and to show your openness to folks from other places (great for mitigation in a worst case scenario, i.e., a fair housing lawsuit or charge), think about what you can do to make it easier for people with LEP. Ideas might include a work order board (residents point to a picture where they have a problem – a toilet, a sink, a door) or work order requests with visuals (think Clip Art) to check. By the way, merhaba means “hello” in Turkish.

Boy Meets Girl. (Or Boy Meets Boy, or Girl Meets Boy, or Girl Meets Girl) No matter the combination, such a scenario can lead to charges of sexual harassment. Why is this a fair housing topic? Because the victims of sexual harassment are chosen based on their gender, and gender is protected under the FHA. Many of the issues arise with maintenance personnel (who may be perpetrators or, as is often the case, victims of sexual harassment). Keeping in mind the vulnerability of your residents and your employees, there are questions you need to ask and decisions you need to make. Should your employees be allowed to date residents? Should your employees be allowed to socialize with residents? And while the topic here is sexual harassment, dating and socializing can lead to other fair housing issues if they lead to disparate treatment in the rental environment (such as the upset African American resident who feels that the maintenance man responds more promptly to her neighbor whom he is dating and who is white). Know the risks of such dating and socializing, know your tolerance for risk, and create your policies accordingly.

MyFace and SpaceBook. You may chuckle when you hear less-than-savvy folks talk about social media, but you may not know as much as you think you do when it comes to social media marketing and fair housing. Social media marketing is a form of advertising and there are fair housing considerations. There are numerous and detailed articles out there about this, but here are a few things for you to consider:

          o Use the EHO logo: this is advertising!

          o Watch what you say: the same words that were taboo in print and online are still taboo in social media.

          o Watch who says it: diversity of spokespersons should be your goal.

          o Watch who you show: white-only advertising has been a sin since 1968; the days of Barbie® and Ken are long over.

          o Weigh your control of your social media site: more control can mean more fair housing liability.

Food Stamps. Should food stamps be counted toward income for rent qualification? The answer is “maybe.” If your community is located in an area that has a source of income protection <this is the case across Oregon>, there is the possibility that food stamps would be considered income. Would this be necessary as a reasonable accommodation if the recipient is getting food stamps based on disability? And finally, the philosophical question of “why not” count them? 

Fair housing laws will continue to expand and will often be interpreted very broadly to protect the civil rights of those who live with you or wish to do so. You owe it to them and to yourself to always be aware of and in compliance with those laws that assure equal housing opportunity.

At the Fair Housing Council we offer detailed information about federal and state protected classes linked from the entry page of our site at www.FHCO.org.  To check for local protections in the area you live, work, or own property visit www.FHCO.org/pdfs/matrix_ore.pdf or www.FHCO.org/pdfs/matrix_wash.pdf.  And, as always, if you have fair housing questions, visit our site or call our free Hotline at 800/424-3247 Ext. 2.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington.  Learn more and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at FHCO.org. “Fair Housing Focus” is written by Nadeen Green, Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions™.  The information contained in this article is not to be considered legal advice, and the author and For Rent Media Solutions strongly suggest that you consult with your own counsel as to any fair housing questions or problems you may have.

Qs about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws?

Visit www.FHCO.org or call 1-800-424-3247 Ext. 2.

Qs about this article?  Want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?

Contact Diane Hess, Education Director at dhess@FHCO.org or 800/424-3247 Ext. 108

Children: A Protected Class But Also At Greatest Risk for Lead Poisoning


What Can You Do?
What Can’t You Do?
How Do You Comply with All the Laws?

By Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

While anyone can be poisoned by lead, children under the age of six are particularly vulnerable.  Children are at risk both because they are more likely to ingest lead in housing situations and because lead can adversely affect children’s brains, central nervous system, and other organs and systems that are still developing.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 1 out of every 25 children has unsafe levels of lead in their blood. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry the number is much higher—roughly 1 in every 6!

Studies have shown that inhalation of lead dust particles in the air due to friction caused by opening and closing lead-based painted surfaces such as doors and windows can be just as hazardous as the ingestion of lead paint particles.  Once poisoned, most of the resulting health effects are not curable.  To make the situation all the more insidious and difficult, you may unknowingly have lead in your building because it cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled.

Some sources state that lead-based paint hazards found in the home are, in fact, the single largest environmental hazards facing our nation’s children.  The magnitude of the problem and the importance of the issue have raised questions concerning lead-based paint and the requirements of the Fair Housing Act[1] to not discriminate against families with children.

It is illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to deny housing to families with children (or otherwise treat them differently in any way) unless the housing provider is exempt as a “designated senior community” (for information on familial status protections and the housing for older persons exception visit www.FHCO.org/families.htm).  Case law has reinforced the fact that housing providers cannot discourage potential residents with children simply because the property has or may have “hazards” such as steep stairways and balconies, busy streets, and the presence of dangerous equipment or lead-based paint.  It is up to the household to determine if a given property is appropriate for their children; it is not up to a housing provider to determine this for them.

Housing providers with units built prior to 1978 must advise all potential residents (with or without children) that the unit may contain lead-based paint (see section 1018 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992), but may not refuse housing (or treat a household differently) based on the presence of children.

Below is an excerpt from a 1997 memo from HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity department clarifying the interaction between federal lead-based requirements and the FHA.

Question: May a housing provider affirmatively market units where lead-based paint hazards have been controlled to families with children?

Answer: Yes. Affirmatively marketing units where lead-based paint hazards have been controlled to families with children is consistent with fair housing laws and with the need to protect the public welfare. A housing provider may verbally or through advertisements advise the public or potential applicants for housing that such units are available, or that families with children are welcomed for such units. In addition, a housing provider may recommend a unit where lead-based paint hazards have been controlled to families with children under the age of six, or inform the family of the availability of a waiting list for units where lead-based paint hazards have been controlled.

Question: May a housing provider exclude families with children from units where lead-based paint hazards have not been controlled?

Answer: If a unit which has not undergone lead hazard control treatments is available and the family chooses to live in the unit, the housing provider must advise the family of the condition of the unit1, but may not decline to allow the family to occupy the unit because the family has children. Similarly, it would violate the Fair Housing Act for a housing provider to seek to terminate the tenancy of a family residing in a unit where lead-based paint hazards have not been controlled against the family’s wishes because of the presence of minor children in the household. The housing provider may offer transfers, with or without incentives, to a family residing in a unit where lead-based paint hazards have not been controlled to enable the family to move to a unit where lead-based paint hazards have been controlled, including for the purpose of addressing hazards in the family’s current unit.

Question: If resources allow lead-based paint hazards in only a few units to be controlled at a time, may these units be reserved for families with young children?

Answer: Housing providers may hold open vacant units where lead–based paint hazards have been controlled for families with young children and may offer such families a preference. However, as noted above, if units where lead-based paint hazards have not been controlled are available, a housing provider cannot refuse to allow a family with young children to live in such units. A housing provider must provide a family with young children information about the hazards of lead poisoning. If only a few units where lead-based paint hazards have been controlled are available at any given time, we recommend that such units be scattered throughout a site rather than segregated in one area.

Question: May housing providers give priority to addressing lead–based paint hazards in units occupied by families with small children?

Answer: Yes. As noted above, however, families cannot be required to vacate units in order to address lead-based paint hazards.  (Families can of course be required to temporarily relocate to another dwelling unit so that the lead hazard control work may be done safely.) Nothing in this memo affects the separate obligation of a housing provider to make reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.


1Section 1018 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Redaction Act of 1992 (42 U.S.C. 4852d).

Whether you are (or represent) a landlord, a seller, or a homeowners association, you need to be familiar with the nexus between lead-paint and FHA requirements.  You can learn more about the later at www.FHCO.org or call our Fair Housing Hotline at 800/424-3247 Ext 2.

You should also know that the federal government requires housing providers to disclose that there may be lead hazards in homes built before 1978 prior to contract and prior to many repairs and renovations. Federal law also requires those doing work on pre-1978 housing be certified to do so and to follow specific work practices.  You must, by law, hire a contractor who is lead-safe certified—or become certified yourself—if doing work on a home you do not occupy.  To you’re your lead questions answered and learn more about these requirements visit www.FHCO.org/lead.htm or contact the LeadLine at 503/988-4000 (a free service).

You should also check out the Portland-based Community Energy Project’s (CEP) “Living Lead Safe” program (503/284-6827).  The CEP class would make an excellent office or community meeting presentation or even a wonderful offering an agent could set up for his / her clientele.  It takes about an hour and, as a former Realtor® myself, I can tell you it is mind blowing!


This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington.  Learn more and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at www.FHCO.org.

Qs about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws?

Visit www.FHCO.org or call 1-800-424-3247 Ext. 2.

Qs about this article?  Want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?

Contact Sandy Stienecker, Education / Outreach Specialist at sstienecker@FHCO.org or 503/23-8197 Ext. 109


[1]   Federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include:  race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children), and disability.  Oregon law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors.  Washington law covers martial status, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors, and honorably discharged veterans / military status. Additional protected classes have been added in particular geographic areas; visit FHCO.org/mission.htm and read the section entitled “View Local Protected Classes” for more information.