As a landlord in Arkansas, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your legal obligations when providing housing to avoid discrimination. And one way to do that is by knowing the basics of the Arkansas Fair Housing Act.

The Act of Arkansas Fair Housing is a piece of legislation, working under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, that protects tenants from housing discrimination based on certain protected classes, such as race, having young children, religion, or national origin.

In today’s blog, we’ll cover all the basics of the AR Fair Housing Act so you can protect yourself from potential discrimination in housing.

What Does Fair Housing Mean?

Fair housing is a legal concept that guarantees everyone the right to choose housing without being discriminated against. Fair housing applies not only to renters, but also to home buyers and mortgage applicants as well.

The goal of fair housing is to provide everyone in the housing market a level playing field. It ensures that everyone can compete for housing based on their needs and qualifications, and not based on their protected classes.

When Was the Fair Housing Act Enacted?

Housing discrimination has been rife throughout American history. It was common for minority groups to face housing discrimination when renting, buying, or seeking mortgage financing.

The Fair Housing Act was enacted on April 11, 1968, and signed into the Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Its enactment into law was a culmination of several factors.

What Are the Protected Classes Under the Fair Housing Act in Arkansas?

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status (such as having children), disability, and national origin.

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Some states may also have their own legislation with additional protections. The Arkansas Fair Housing Commission, however, doesn’t provide extra protections to any groups.

What Actions May Be Considered Discriminatory in Arkansas?

The following are some of the actions that you will want to steer clear of as a landlord in Arkansas.

  • Refusing to rent to a qualified tenant because of their protected class, such as race, national origin or color.
  • Charging tenants different fees, security deposits, or rents based on a protected class. For example, charging a higher security deposit to a family with children.
  • Treating tenants differently based on a protected characteristic, such as national origin or race. For instance, enforcing rules differently, such as requiring certain groups of prospective renters to provide their credit reports and not requiring the same from other groups of tenants.
  • Having different lease terms for a family with children.
  • Harassing your tenant. For example, by hurling insults at them, intimidating them, or threatening to evict them from the property.
  • Refusing to rent out your property to a pregnant woman or one with young children.
  • Charging extra fees or higher rent to a disabled tenant.
  • Making discriminatory statements regarding a tenant’s national origin group Religion.

Who Oversees Fair Housing in Arkansas?

The main body that oversees fair housing in Arkansas is the state’s Fair Housing Commission (AFHC). They work in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The following are some of the responsibilities of the AFHC.

  • Investigate fair housing complaints based on tenants’ protected classes, including race, color, sex, national origin, religion, and disability.
  • Enforce the act to ensure open and equitable access to housing for all people.
  • Educate tenants on their fair housing rights.
  • Work with landlords and other housing stakeholders to promote fair housing practices.

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Are There Any Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act?

Yes, a few exemptions to the fair housing laws in Arkansas apply. The exemptions of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission include the following.

  • Housing designated as 55+. This permits landlords to discriminate against renters who are 54 years and below from renting the property.
  • Faith-based organizations, such as churches and mosques. These are allowed to discriminate against members who don’t profess the same religion. However, they must treat their members equally and fairly as the fair housing law dictates they should.
  • Private clubs. Similar to religious organizations, private clubs are also allowed to discriminate against non-members.
  • Owner-occupied housing. Landlords who rent out a section of their homes may be exempt from the dictates of fair housing laws. But this exemption will only be possible if the owner doesn’t own more than three single-family houses at any one time.

What Are the Fair Housing Protections for Disabled People?

Disabled tenants have certain special protections under both the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The following are the impairments that constitute a disability under these laws.

  • Mental illness
  • Mobility impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Hearing impairments

What Are the Penalties for Landlords Who Violate the Arkansas Fair Housing Act?

Landlords who violate the AFHA can face a range of penalties. Of course, the severity of the penalty will depend on the nature of the violation.

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The penalties can include those at the federal and state level. The federal penalties can be as high as $50,000 for first-time offenders and $100,000 for repeat offenders.

At the state level, civil penalties can reach as high as $10,000 for first offenders and $25,000 for repeat offenders.

What Can Landlords Do to Avoid Fair Housing Violations in Arkansas?

The following are practical things you can do to avoid fair housing violations in the state of Arkansas.

  • Make yourself aware of your protected classes.
  • Avoid questions that imply preference or bias towards any protected class.
  • Be consistent in your screening criteria.
  • Accommodate reasonable requests for disabled tenants.
  • Be clear and consistent in your communications with interested applicants, regardless of race, national origin, etc.

Bottom Line

As a landlord, abiding by the fair housing laws is crucial, both ethically and legally. Violations can severely hurt your bottom line, as well as your good standing as a reputable landlord.

If you need help staying compliant or need a professional property manager to help you handle all your property management needs, then look no further than Pro X Property Management - Bentonville AR.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.