|FAIR HOUSING: LENDING PROCEDURES AND PRACTICES|
How to Recognize Discriminatory Practices
When you apply for a mortgage, a lender may not:
- · Discourage you from applying for or denying you a loan because you are a member of a protected class under
- Federal, State, or Montgomery County Laws. You are a protected on the basis of your race, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, presence of children, source of income, sexual orientation or age.
- · Ask if you're widowed or divorced. When permitted to ask marital status, a creditor may only use the terms: married, unmarried, or separated.
- · Request information about your spouse, except when your spouse is applying with you, or if you are relying on your spouse's income or on alimony or child support from a former spouse. They cannot inquire about your plans for having or raising children.
- · Ask if you receive alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments, unless you're first told that you don't have to provide this information if you're not relying on these payments to get the mortgage. A creditor may ask if you have to pay alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments.
When deciding to give you a mortgage, a lender may not:
- · Consider your race, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, color, religion, nationality origin, ancestry, presence of children, source of income, sexual orientation or age.
- · Consider the race of people in the neighborhood where you want to buy, refinance or improve a house with borrowed money.
- · Consider your age, unless:
- -You're too young to sign contracts, generally younger than 18 years of age.
- -You're 62 or older, and the creditor will favor you because of your age.
- -It's used to determine the meaning of other factors important to credit worthiness. For example, a creditor could use your age to determine if your income might drop because you're about to retire.
- -It's used in a valid scoring system that favors applicants age 62 and older. A credit-scoring system assigns points to answers you provide to credit application questions. For example, your length of employment might be scored differently depending on your age.
When evaluating your income, a lender may not:
- · Refuse to consider public assistance income the same way as other income.
- · Discount income because of your sex or marital status. For example, a creditor cannot count a man's salary at 100 percent and a woman's at 75 percent.
- · Assume a woman of childbearing age will stop working to raise children. .Discount or refuse to consider income because it comes from part-time employment or pension, annuity, or retirement benefits programs.
- · Refuse to consider regular alimony, child support, separate maintenance payments. A creditor may ask you to prove you have received this income consistently.
You have the right to:
- · Have a mortgage in your birth name, your first and your spouse's last name, or your first name and a combined last name.
- · Get a mortgage without a cosigner, if you meet the creditor's standards.
- · Know whether your application was accepted or rejected within 30 days of filing a complete application.
- · Know why your application was rejected. The creditor must give you a notice that tells you either the specific reasons for your rejection or your right to learn the reasons if you ask within 60 days.
Acceptable reasons include:
"Your income was too low," or "You haven't been employed long enough."
Unacceptable reasons are:
"You didn't meet our minimum standards," or "You didn't receive enough points on our credit-scoring system."
Indefinite and vague reasons are illegal, so ask the creditor to be specific.
- · Find out why you were offered less favorable terms than you applied for-unless you accept the terms. Ask for details. Examples of less favorable terms include higher finance charges or less money than you requested.
- · Find out why your account was closed or why the terms of the account were made less favorable unless the account was inactive or delinquent.
A Special Note About Credit:
A good credit history – a record of how you paid past bills – often is necessary to get credit. Unfortunately, this hurts many married, separated, divorced, or widowed women. There are two common reasons women don’t have credit histories in their own names: they lost their credit histories when they married and changed their names, or creditors reported accounts shared by married couples in the husband’s name only.
If you’re married, divorced, separated or widowed, contact your local credit bureau(s) to make sure all relevant information is in a file under your own name.
FAIR HOUSING: SOURCE OF INCOME, FAMILIAL STATUS AND OCCUPANCY STANDARDS
How to Recognize Discriminatory Practices
SOURCE OF INCOME
Housing discrimination based on source of income is prohibited under an amendment to Montgomery County Code, Chapter 27, that took effect in 1991. The amendment bars anyone from refusing to sell, .Section 8 and other subsidy programs are no longer rent, negotiate or otherwise transfer housing because of a person's source of income. Any lawful source of income paid directly or providers is protected by this amendment. Sources include any lawful profession or occupation; any government or private assistance, grant or loan program; any gift, inheritance, pension, annuity, alimony, child support or other compensation or benefit; or any sale or pledge of any tangible assets. The definition also includes participation in a housing subsidy program such as Section 8 Rental Assistance. Under the amendment, a housing provider may not refuse to rent to a person with a Section 8 certificate or voucher merely because the person is participating in the program. The provider may, however, conduct the usual reference and credit checks and reject a prospective tenant based on a negative report if the tenant must pay part of the rent.
A housing provider is not obligated to consider income derived from any criminal activity and may evict or refuse to rent to anyone involved in drug-related or violent criminal activity.
- · Any lawful source of income must be considered in determining qualifications for the rental or sale of housing, These sources of income may be verified,
- · Section 8 and other subsidy programs are no longer optional in Montgomery County. A housing provider cannot refuse to participate in the program. Housing providers must consider prospects who participate in these programs along side other prospects and applicants.
- · Credit checks may be conducted on Section 8 subsidy holders, but if the entire rent is paid by the subsidy, there is no reason to reject the tenant if the credit check is negative because the tenant is not responsible for paying the rent.
- · There is no reason to perform an income qualification check on a Section 8 or subsidized prospect if the prospect does not pay any portion of the rent.
- · The reference checks which housing providers run for Section 8 or subsidized tenants must be the same reference checks that housing providers run for unsubsidized prospects.
- · A housing provider is not required to rent or sell to a participant in a housing subsidy program merely because the tenant has the subsidy. The law does not provide a preference for persons with housing subsidies over those without subsidies.
- · The law does not obligate anyone to accept a cosigner, but if the rental payment or the sales transaction is described as a gift, then this gift must be considered as a source of income and may be verified.
- · Housing providers cannot choose a prospect with a particular occupation over another. It would be illegal to refuse to rent or sell to lawyers (because they might sue you) or to prefer psychologists (because they might understand you).
Chapter 27, Article I of the Montgomery County Code makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals because of their familial status (presence of children). Included in this classification is whether an individual is pregnant, has children, or is in the process of adopting or otherwise securing custody of children.
You must not:
- · Refuse to rent or sell a house or apartment to a family because of the presence of children;
- · Require an additional security deposit or charge for families with children that is not required of other residents;
- · Segregate families with children to a certain area or floor of a complex;
- · Limit the use of a complex’s services or facilities to adults only, except when reasonable safety rules clearly necessitate it; or
- · Evict a family after a child is born or adopted, unless reasonable occupancy requirements are violated.
The only type of housing that is exempt from the familial status protection is specifically designated ‘housing for older persons.’ To qualify as a complex for older persons, a complex must meet the following requirements:
- · All occupants must be 62 years of age or older;
- · Eighty percent of the units in a complex must be occupied by at least one person age 55 or older; or
- · The housing must be funded by the state or federal government as housing for older persons.
In March, 1991, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) addressed the issue of occupancy standards in the Keating Memorandum, which states that "...HUD believes that an occupancy policy of two persons in a bedroom, as a general rule, is reasonable under the Fair Housing Act." However, the HUD memorandum goes on to state that a "two people per bedroom" policy may be unreasonably
restrictive, depending on other factors, such as the size and number of bedrooms, the overall size of the unit, Familial Status and other special circumstances: For this reason, caution suggests that housing providers should consider the occupancy standard of two persons per bedroom Code makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals plus one or more additional persons, depending on the circumstances.
Montgomery County occupancy standards state following in reference to the designation of rooms as a bedroom:
- · A den with windows must be treated as a bedroom;
- · You must have 70 sq. feet in the bedroom for the first person;
- · You must have 50 sq. feet per person for any additional persons using the same room as a bedroom.
The Montgomery County Code should be consulted for additional requirements.
FAIR HOUSING FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
How to Recognize Discriminatory Housing Practices
WHO IS PROTECTED BY FAIR HOUSING LAWS?
Fair Housing Laws provides protection from housing discrimination for housing applicants, tenants and buyers with any kind of disability. Whether it is a hearing or vision impairment, mental illness, physical disability, mental retardation, AlDS or HIV infection, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or any condition which substantially limits one or more major life activities.
If you use a walker or a wheelchair, or have an assistive anima! or a personal-care attendant, these laws protect you against housing discrimination. You're also covered if you have a record of having a mental or physical disability or if you ate regarded as having a mental or physical disability.
WHO MUST COMPLY?
Property owners, landlords, housing managers, real estate agents, brokerage service agencies and lending institutions must comply. The Fair Housing Laws cover both privately owned housing and housing subsidized by federal funds, such as low-income public housing.
Multi-family housing constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 must comply with guidelines that make the complex adaptable for persons with disabilities. If the complex does not have an elevator, all first floor units must be adaptable. If there is an elevator, then all units on all floors must be built in compliance with the guidelines.
Adaptable features include an accessible route from the parking to the entrance to the unit;- an accessible entrance into the unit; maneuvering space throughout the unit; light switches, electric plugs and environmental controls at specified heights; usable space in the kitchen and bathroom, and reinforcements in the bathroom walls for addition of grab bars. In addition, tenants must be able to access areas of public use, such as the rental office, laundry facilities, mail boxes, and recreation~1 facilities.
CAN YOU BE ASKED ABOUT YOUR DISABILITY?
NO! No matter why they’re asked, questions about your disability are prohibited by the Fair Housing Laws. A landlord, property manger, seller or lender may not use an application form that asks if you have or have had a mental pr physical disability or that seeks information about the nature or severity of your disability. You may not be asked to provide your medical records or to sign a document allowing others to see them.
Fair Housing Laws require that housing providers make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, practices or services to give a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. Accommodations are "reasonable" when they're practical and feasible.
How can you get a reasonable accommodation?
You must request it. As the tenant, you have the responsibility to ask for an accommodation when it's needed.
How about assistive animals?
Any tenant who is in medical need of an assistive animal is protected even if the housing development has a "No Pets" policy.
Can you get reserved parking?
Persons with disabilities have the right to request that landlords reserve them safe and convenient parking in close proximity to their living unit.
When physical changes to your own unit are necessary to accommodate your disability, the landlord must let you make them, as long as they're reasonable. "Reasonable means leaving the unit acceptable, after you move out, to someone who doesn't need the modification you made. That can either be because the modification itself won't bother the next tenant or because you will undo it when you leave.
As the tenant, you have the responsibility to pay for modifications made to your living unit. If the adaptations will effect the ability of the next tenant to fully use the living unit, you can establish an escrow account to pay for the removal of the adaptations when you move out.
FAIR HOUSING LAWS
Chapter 27of the Montgomery County Code makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of race, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, presence of children, source of income, sexual orientation and age.
The Human Relations Commission investigates and conciliates complaints filed under Chapter 27.
The Federal Government
The Fair Housing Amendments Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development investigates and conciliates housing complaints filed under the FHAA. Persons who consider themselves to be victims of housing discrimination can file suit in Federal Court.
Related federal laws include:
- · Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
- · Americans with Disabilities Act
· Equal Credit Opportunity Act
The State of Maryland
Article 49B of the Maryland Annotated Code makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, marital status, physical or mental disability, national origin, sex, or family status.
The Maryland Commission on Human Relations investigates and conciliates complaints filed under Article 49B.
Real Estate Law (BOP, Section 16-526), forbids discriminatory practices by real estate brokers or agents, putting them at risk of loosing their license. This law is enforced by the Real Estate Commission.
IF YOU SUSPECT DISCRIMINATION, CONTACT:
Montgomery County Human Relations Commission
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Maryland Real Estate Commission
Maryland Commission on Human Relations