The Federal Fair Housing Act protects the rights of individuals to obtain access to housing without discrimination. Housing discrimination is also illegal under Alabama law. Building owners, landlords, homeowners, and others involved in the housing industry have an obligation to comply with federal and state fair housing laws. When these laws are violated, legal remedies are available to compel offenders to alter their policies and practices, and in some cases, pay monetary damages to victims of discrimination. If you were denied housing and you believe your civil rights have been violated, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.
Since 2005, attorney Kira Fonteneau has stood up for individuals who have been denied housing and experienced other types of civil rights violations. Kira understands the frustration individuals go through when they are qualified to rent or purchase a home or apartment, but they are denied that opportunity through no fault of their own. Kira is an aggressive advocate for those who are victims of housing discrimination, and she works tirelessly to obtain appropriate relief for her clients, and to ensure that those responsible for this type of discrimination are held fully accountable.
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Housing Discrimination Laws in Alabama
Individuals can be denied housing for legitimate reasons such as inability to qualify for a home loan or inability to pay rent, but federal and state laws prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of:
- Skin Color
- National Origin
- Marital Status
- Religious Affiliation
- Familial Status
- Sexual Orientation
Under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination is prohibited in the sale or rental of a home or apartment, obtaining a mortgage, obtaining homeowner insurance, and any other housing-related service. Some examples of housing discrimination may include:
- Real estate agents or rental managers who steer their clients away from certain neighborhoods based on race or any other protected class;
- A landlord or rental manager who imposes a “no pets allowed” policy on a disabled person who needs a service animal (e.g., guide dog) to obtain access to the home or apartment they want to live in;
- A building owner who refuses to make any other type of “reasonable accommodation” (such as a wheelchair ramp) for a prospective tenant with disabilities;
- A real estate agent or rental manager who uses stall tactics to avoid showing a home or apartment that is for sale or rent;
- A landlord or homeowner who artificially inflates the rent or price of a home to make it unaffordable to a tenant or discourage a purchase offer;
- A rental manager who selectively demands that a housing applicant produce a “green card” based on the individual’s accent or ethnicity;
- A rental manager who fails to respond to an inquiry about an apartment or home for rent, or never gets back to an interested party after they have submitted an application;
- A bank or mortgage company that refuses to provide financing for a home to a qualified applicant based on race or any other protected class;
- A bank or mortgage company that imposes less favorable terms and conditions on financing, such as higher interest rates and/or closing costs;
- An insurance agent or insurance company that refuses to insure a property based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood;
- A landlord who asks for sexual favors in exchange for approving a rental application, or in exchange for payment of the rent;
- A landlord who imposes an arbitrary “no kids allowed” policy to prevent an individual with children from renting a home or apartment;
- A landlord who tries to intimidate a long-term tenant into vacating a property because of their race or another protected class;
- A landlord who refuses to rent to an individual who has a certain disease or health condition, such as HIV/AIDS.
Housing discrimination can be difficult to detect, because it is usually not done openly. However, there are some signs to look for that may indicate that you are being discriminated against. Here are some phrases that should make you suspicious:
- “We just rented that apartment to someone else, but thanks for inquiring”
- “The seller just pulled the listing off the market”
- “If you have children, you will need to pay an extra security deposit”
- “I’m not sure if you can afford to live in this neighborhood”
- “I’m not sure if this neighborhood is for you”
- “There’s a long waiting list for this apartment, but maybe something can be worked out to move you to the front of the line”
What to Do if you Believe your Right to Fair Housing Has been Violated
If you encounter suspicious treatment by someone in the housing industry, there are some steps you should take to help protect your legal rights:
- Retain all Communication Records: Keep records of all communication between you and rental managers/landlords, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, insurance agents, and other contacts with parties that are in the housing industry. Note the dates and times of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings and document everything that was said during this communication. Also save copies of all written and electronic communication, such as letters, emails, and text messages.
- Retain all Available Supporting Documentation: Retain copies of any other records, such as business cards, deposit receipts, and housing applications. You may also want to save any newspaper ads and/or take screenshots of all electronic advertising. This is especially helpful in cases when applicants are told that housing is no longer available, but the provider continues to run public advertising to the contrary.
- Take Detailed Notes: Write down, in as much detail as possible, everything that has transpired during your experience dealing with a housing provider. It is best to do this while the process is ongoing, so everything is fresh in your mind.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Alabama Housing Discrimination Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been the victim of housing discrimination, attorney Kira Fonteneau is here to stand up for your rights. Kira understands the complexities of state and federal housing laws, and she has a successful track record obtaining justice for each client she serves. To schedule your free consultation with attorney Fonteneau, contact our office today at 205-564-9005. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.