Fair Housing Laws in New Jersey
New Jersey Housing Lawyer for Landlords
At Griffin Alexander, P.C., our understanding of Fair Housing requirements helps protect our clients in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. On the Federal Level, the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and their regulations are administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but also contain private rights of action. On the State level, New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination largely mirrors the Federal Requirements.
Housing discrimination laws and regulations are intended as a shield, to protect home purchasers and tenants in the exercise of their civil rights, and insure that no person suffers unequal treatment because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual preference, marital or familial status, gender identity, disability or source of income when renting or buying a home, securing a mortgage, or seeking housing assistance. Sometimes, however, these housing protections are used as a sword, to obtain benefits to which residents or tenants are not entitled. Housing complaints, justified and unjustified, are common in New Jersey are common, so it’s important that landlords, community associations and others exercise care when confronting a fair housing issue.
In our residential and commercial landlord-tenant law practice, we assist landlords in developing strategies to assure that fair housing issues are given the attention they deserve before discriminatory acts occur, and minimize exposure to liability from fair housing issues. We work to prevent lawsuits when possible, and, when not possible, we defend our clients with competence and zeal. We are relentless advocates, but we are also educators. We have provided continuing education for managers, landlords and community association boards. We consider this an important part of our function.
Most people know not to discriminate against a person based upon race or religion, but many do not know that, for example, a New Jersey landlord cannot reject a tenant applicant because he or she has one or more children under the age of eighteen (18). Many do not know that a landlord cannot reject a tenant applicant because he or she receives government financial assistance. However, these restrictions can take several different, and not necessarily intuitive, forms. Many do not know that discrimination against a person with a disability can occur by failing to make a reasonable accommodation. Some cases involving disability are particularly complicated, for example, when a medical marijuana user lives next door to an asthmatic. It is important that landlords work with a seasoned attorney who can keep them informed of these potential pitfalls.
Landlords are permitted to make decisions regarding certain aspects of tenants’ background to determine if they would be ideal tenants. Legally allowable “differentiating factors” on which a landlord can rely include:
- negative references,
- ability to pay,
- bad credit, and
- problematic habits (e., routine swearing, fighting, etc.).
So while a tenant cannot be rejected due to their source of income, if he or she has a history of making late rent payments, that might be a sufficient basis for a landlord to deny a housing application. Rejecting an applicant for a drug addiction could be seen as discrimination based on a disability; but if an applicant has a conviction for selling or using drugs, a landlord may be able to reject an application for housing based on criminal activity. It is often important to look at a variety of factors, and have a clear, unambiguous policy in place.
Generally, to avoid liability for housing discrimination a landlord must ensure the reasoning for rejecting a housing applicant is a legally allowable justification and not made on the basis of the applicant’s identity as a member of a protected class. We, at Griffin Alexander, P.C., can advise on your particular situation to ensure you are not unintentionally violating the Fair Housing Act and creating a legal standing for a lawsuit.
Contact a New Jersey Housing Lawyer to Request a Consultation
Facing a discrimination claim can have serious legal and financial repercussions. A false discrimination claim can also impact a landlord’s reputation.
At Griffin Alexander, P.C., our attorneys are experienced in Fair Housing claims, including disputes claiming the denial of housing to an applicant of a protected class. We understand these legal predicaments are sensitive, nuanced, and complex. We are committed to working closely with landlords to gather the necessary evidence and insight to put forth a winning case.
Whether you are a or a landlord who is unsure of whether you can reject a particular applicant, or a community association board member who has been called upon to accommodate a person with a disability, Griffin Alexander, P.C. can provide the sophisticated Fair Housing representation necessary to ensure that you are protected.
Call us at 973-366-1188 or complete an intake form online to request a consultation with one of our attorneys at Griffin Alexander, P.C. today.
We look forward to speaking with you further.