Fair is Fair—and It’s The Law


The Civil Rights Act of 1968, (enacted April 11, 1968) is a landmark part of legislation in the United States that provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed or national origin, and made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone… by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.” The Act was signed into law during the Rev. Dr. King assassination riots by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had previously signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is commonly known as the Fair Housing Act and was meant as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Civil Rights Act of 1966 prohibited discrimination in housing, there were no federal enforcement provisions. The 1968 Act expanded on previous Acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financ ing of housing based on race, religion, national origin and, since 1974, gender. Since 1988, the Act protects people with disabilities and families with children.

As housing providers that often consider applications from people with animals, we must know the definition of a pet, comfort animal and assistance animal. I don’t allow pets on my rental property, nor are there any units with comfort animals or assistance animals. But under what circumstances may a pet, comfort or assistance animal be accepted or denied? A pet is generally considered to be a dog or cat and can be denied if you have a “no pets” policy. Snakes are somewhat common as are guinea pigs, hamsters and the like. If pets are allowed on your property, you may charge additional pet rent and an additional security deposit. Just be certain that all deposits combined don’t exceed two months’ rent for an unfurnished dwelling OR three times the rent for a furnished apartment.

But wait… we still have the issue of comfort animals. Just what is a comfort animal? A comfort animal provides comfort for such individuals who have been diagnosed with PTSD or perhaps have lost a loved one. The animal in question provides comfort. It is not permissible to require a security deposit, nor is it permissible to collect rent for a comfort animal, which leaves us with assistance animals. Assistance animals are much more common, and we often see assistance animals in the form of a guide dog for the seeing impaired. Again, as with comfort animals, additional rent for the assis tance animal is not permissible, nor is a security deposit. And, just in case you were thinking of deny ing an assistance or com fort animal — please think again. These questions and many others can be answered by attending one of the two Fair Housing seminars set for April 7 and 14 in the AACSC Education Center. Hope to see you there.

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