The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for any housing provider to take any of the following actions against a person because of his or her race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and/or handicap:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Impose different sale prices or rental charges for a dwelling
- Evict tenants because of their race or the race of their guests
- Otherwise make housing unavailable or deny housing
- Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the rental or sale of a dwelling (example: a landlord cannot demand an additional security deposit because you are disabled or have children)
- Deny or limit services because a tenant refused to provide sexual favors
- Delay or fail to perform maintenance or repairs to dwelling units
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- Advertise or make any statement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination (example: a landlord cannot post an advertisement that states, “Two bedroom, two bath for rent, $600 a month, NO KIDS, ADULTS ONLY”)
- Assign any person to a particular section of a complex or neighborhood or to a particular floor of a building
- Discourage the purchase or rental of a dwelling by exaggerating drawbacks or failing to inform any person of desirable features of a dwelling, community, neighborhood, or development
- Communicate to any prospective resident that he or she would not be comfortable with existing residents of a community, neighborhood, or development
- Threaten, coerce, or intimidate anyone for exercising his/her fair housing rights or for assisting others in exercising their rights
Common Housing Scams
Shark Attack! Predatory Lending is a fair housing issue also, as a new breed of scam artists are loose in our communities, attempting to pose as legitimate lenders, brokers, or home improvement contractors. These loan operations target those who can least afford to lose money and threatens to counteract years of public and private funds intended to breathe new life into older neighborhoods. While they lure victims with offers of easy access to money, predatory lenders use high-pressure salespersons, inflated interest rates, outrageous fees, unaffordable repayment terms, unnecessary add-ons, and harassing collection tactics. Homeowners can even be tricked into taking out loans they cannot afford to repay, often at the risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.
Most predatory loans are almost always sub-prime loans, but not all sub-prime loans are predatory. Sub-prime lending addresses a legitimate need, providing loans for individuals with less than perfect credit ratings. The term “sub-prime” refers to the borrower’s credit rating, not to the loan’s interest rate. Sub-prime loans have higher fees and interest rates to compensate for the lender’s higher risk. Overwhelmingly, African Americans, Hispanics, women, the elderly, and low to moderate income persons are being targeted by this market – even when they have very good credit and qualify for loans in the conventional (“prime”) market.
A few simple steps can keep you from becoming victims:
- Check it out. If you need to borrow money for home repairs, medical expenses, or bill consolidation, shop around. Compare interest rates and total costs. A lower monthly payment is not always the better deal.
- Find out what the total cost of the loan will be before making a decision.
- Use the phone to check out any lender. Ask the lender for names of other customers and call them.
- Check to see if there have been complaints against any company you are considering.
- Never act immediately. Avoid lenders who call and promise guaranteed, low-interest loans, take applications over the phone, or offer next day approval if you pay them some money today.
- Read everything carefully and ask questions. You have a right to know the total cost of the loan, the annual percentage rate, monthly payments, how long you have to pay back the loan and to have all fees explained.
Avoid “balloon” payments. One way lenders can make loans sound very attractive is to make the monthly payment small but require a big “balloon” payment at the end of the loan period.