Know Your Rights: April is Fair Housing Month

By Barbara Chandler, Senior Advisor on Civil Rights and Fair Housing

April is Fair Housing Month which celebrates the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968. It is also a time to remind people that there are anti-discrimination protections provided on the state level as well.

One of the civil rights protected classes covered in Massachusetts is source of income – defined as protection from discrimination because someone receives government assistance such as a rental voucher.

Adding additional rental application standards such as those listed below could be viewed as violations:

  • Requesting a higher security deposit or additional references from individuals who receive public assistance;
  • Requiring that the voucher be 100% equal to the advertised rent (recipients may be able to use other sources of income in connection with their voucher to cover the rent, however each public assistance program uses a specific procedure to determine a tenant’s rent share);
  • Failure to cooperate with the inspection process or refusing to correct inspection violations;
  • Limiting the use of a voucher;
  • Imposing different terms and conditions such as requiring more frequent inspections, higher housekeeping standards, etc. ; or
  • Attempting to evict a tenant because they receive government assistance, not for reasons related to lease violations.

As the recent settlement between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Granada Highlands in Medford recently demonstrated, source of income violations can be costly. This particular settlement included a $600,000 fine, mandatory fair housing training, and the development of fair housing policies to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office. For further information on this case, click HERE.

For more information, visit Metro Housing’s website for a Fair Housing and Rental Assistance fact sheet

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