MARYLAND FAIR HOUSING EDUCATION PROJECT
Fair Housing Education
in Eastern, Southern, & Western Maryland
What Is the Project?
For 2008-2009, the GBCHRB is working on a one-year project funded by the Maryland
Department of Housing & Community Development (MDHCD) to provide
Fair Housing education and training for selected counties
in Maryland. Involved Counties include:
Shore & Central Maryland: Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent,
Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, & Worcester.
Southern Maryland: Calvert, Charles, & St. Mary's.
Western Maryland: Allegany, Garrett, & Washington.
Distribution of free Fair Housing brochures, posters,
and self-help guidebooks in libraries, community centers, nonprofits,
governmental agencies, banks, and other businesses.
Media awareness campaign, including providing
the GBCHRB's cable-TV show for each County's cable system.
Development and conducting of free Fair Housing
training for Realtors, developers, lenders, insurers, management
Distribution of free Fair Housing brochures, posters,
Self-Help Guides for each County,
and other information.
Development of a specialized Fair Housing curriculum
(grades K-12) for each County.
- Conducting studies of possible mortgage lending discrimination in each County.
- Development of a specialized "How to Rent and
Buy Housing" curriculum (grades 10-12) for each County.
Toll-free telephone line - 800-895-6302 - available
State-wide for Fair Housing counseling, information, and referral.
Let's Work Together!
The GBCHRB would like to work with you or your organization in this
project. Contact us for FREE copies of our Fair Housing brochures,
guides, posters, & other Fair Housing informational material.
Telephone or email Bill Kladky to discuss how we can work together for Fair Housing
in your community:
Telephone 1-800-895-6302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the Maryland Law
Against Housing Discrimination?
Unlawful Housing Acts
Title 14, Subtitle 03, Chapter 4 (14.03.04) of the Code of Maryland Regulations prohibits housing discrimination in the State based on:
- National Origin.
- Marital Status.
- Mental Disability.
- Physical Disability.
- Familial Status.
- Sexual Orientation.
It is against Maryland law to:
- Refuse to sell or rent a dwelling after a bona fide offer is made.
- Make any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on the above classes.
- Tell a person that a dwelling is not available when it is in fact available.
- Impose different sales prices or rental charges for a dwelling.
- Use different qualification criteria, applications, standards, or procedures - such as income standards, application requirements, credit analysis, or approval procedures.
- Deny or limit services or facilities.
- Have different terms, conditions, or privileges, relating to dwelling sale or rental.
- Fail to or delay to process an offer for dwelling sale or rental.
- Discourage or obstruct housing choice by community, neighborhood, or development.
- Assign a person to a particular section of a community, neighborhood, or development - or to a particular floor of a building.
Exemptions from the Law
These types of housing are exempt from the Fair Housing Law:
- Rooms/units in owner-occupied dwellings for five or fewer families living independently.
- Rental or sale of a single-family home by an owner who does not own more than three houses, has not sold a house within one year, and has not used a broker or agent to rent the house.
- Housing that is specifically operated for persons of one religious organization.
- Rooms in any dwelling if the owner uses this as his/her principal residence.
Does the Law Cover Condominiums? - Yes.
Does the Law apply to buildings built with Federal funds? - Yes. The Act prohibits housing discrimination in both public and private housing, regardless of whether the housing provider used Federal funds.
Can a landlord ask about the usage of birth control devices? - No.
HOW TO FILE A HOUSING DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT
A person who feels that they are a victim of housing discrimination may file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations (MCHR) or with the U. S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). A person may file the same complaint with the State & with HUD.
Steps in Maryland's Discrimination Complaint Process
The first step in filing a housing discrimination complaint is to contact the MCHR. Someone who feels that s/he is the victim of housing discrimination (called the "Complainant") may either telephone or write the MCHR within one year of the incident. The MCHR's telephone numbers are: 800-637-6247. Upon contact, the MCHR staffer will set up an appointment with the Complainant to obtain more information about the complaint.
Investigating the Complaint
As soon as MCHR obtains all the information about the incident from the Complainant, it contacts and gets relevant information from the person who is the subject of the complaint (called the "Respondent"). The MCHR makes this fact-finding process as quickly as possible. This process is quickened if the situation demands immediate action (e.g., the Complainant is subject to immediate threat or harm). MCHR will inform the Complainant and the Respondent in writing of its decision of whether discrimination has occurred, and it then will enforce corrective remedies.
Legal Penalties and Remedies
The MCHR can order a Respondent to make a financial payment and/or many other actions to remedy a proven discrimination problem. For example, it can issue a temporary restraining order to keep a housing unit on the market in certain circumstances. MCHR's administrative penalties can be very costly to the person or company adjudged to be guilty of housing discrimination:
- $10,000 fine, if the person/company has committed one prior discriminatory practice.
- $25,000 fine, if the person/company has committed one prior discriminatory practice within the past 5 years.
- $50,000 fine, if the person/company has committed two or more prior discriminatory practices within the past 7 years.
The MCHR also can negotiate other remedies as agreed between its legal counsel, the Complainant, and the Respondent - including actual damages and "equitable relief" in addition to the monetary fine.
It is Against the Law to Retaliate
The MCHR will ensure that a person who makes a complaint or who supports a complaint by another is not the victim of retaliation. It is illegal to retaliate against a Complainant or someone who aids that person. The State will prosecute immediately such action if it does occur.
It is Against the Law to Intimidate
It is illegal to threaten or intimidate someone who has filed a discrimination complaint. It is illegal to:
Threaten an employee with dismissal because of filing a complaint; Intimidate or threaten someone who has won a discrimination complaint; or Harass someone who has assisted another in filing a discrimination complaint. For example, it is illegal to threaten someone with bodily harm who has filed a discrimination complaint. Harassing that person, by swearing and physical threats, is against the law.
Filing a Complaint with HUD
The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will also help with housing discrimination. The Federal bases for Fair Housing complaints are less than those of the State:
- National Origin.
- Familial Status.
- Physical Disability.
- Mental Disability.
HUD's complaint process is very similar to that of the State:
- Write: Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, S. W., Room 5204, Washington, D. C. 20410-2000
- Telephone the Maryland HUD Office during regular business workdays (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) at 410-962-2520.
- Telephone the HUD national toll-free telephone hot-line at 800-669-9777.
Appropriate assistance also is available for persons with disabilities. A complaint should be filed as soon as possible, but within one year of its occurrence. For persons with disabilities, HUD provides:
- TDD line for hearing-impaired: 410-962-0106.
- Toll-free TDD line: 800-927-9275.
- Interpreters; Tapes and Braille materials.
- Assistance in reading and completing forms.
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION LAW FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Definition of "Disability"
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. Section 794) and the Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988 by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (42 U.S.C. Section 3601 et. seq.) define an individual with disabilities (or handicaps) as: "Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment." These conditions are legally disabilities:
Orthopedic, Visual, Speech, & Hearing Impairments.
Overview of the Relevant Laws
Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4151) - This Act provides for the removal of architectural barriers from all Federally constructed, leased, or financed buildings.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794) - The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination, in Federally assisted and conducted programs, against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities. Section 504 - and HUD's regulations - provide for complaint procedures regarding housing discrimination on the basis of disability. Complaint treatment parallels that for other (e.g., racial) discriminatory allegations.
Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 3601) - This Act significantly revised and expanded Fair Housing rights. See below for listing of discriminatory actions.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 - This Federal Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in private sector employment, all public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications. For more information, please contact the Maryland Commission on Human Relations Commission (800-637-6247).
Prohibited Discriminatory Actions
(a) To refuse to permit, at the request of a person with disabilities, reasonable modifications if necessary to allow this person full usage of the dwelling.
(b) To construct a new housing complex that does not include accessible structure and design standards.
(c) To refuse to make reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, services, or practices, when necessary to allow a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing. Some examples are:
A building with a "no pets" policy must allow a visually-impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near his/her apartment, if necessary to assure that he/she can have access to the apartment.
Requirements for New Buildings
In buildings that were ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units:
- Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs.
- All units must have an accessible route through the unit; a ccessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls; r einforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
If a building with 4 or more housing units has no elevator and had first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units only. These requirements do not replace more stringent standards in Maryland or Worcester County law. Housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or who currently uses illegal drugs.
What must a housing provider consider to assure that housing is provided is integrated? - The housing for persons with disabilities must not be separate or unnecessarily segregated. Accessible units in single buildings should be located throughout the building, and not just on the first floor. In projects with multiple buildings, accessible units should be located throughout these buildings, rather than in just one or two buildings. Persons with mental disabilities should not be segregated in any one wing, floor, or building.
Does the Law apply to building built without Federal funds? - The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination in both public and private housing, regardless of whether or not the housing provider receives Federal funds.
What about communication with persons with disabilities? - A housing provider must have an effective way to communicate with all tenants and applicants who have disabilities:
- Telephone: TDD or a fax machine.
- Alternate site for applicants if not accessible.
- Application forms and other information in simplified language and utilize pictures or diagrams.
What is the Law regarding the cost of housing modifications? - The Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers allow tenants with disabilities to make modifications, at the tenant's expense, when such modifications are necessary. However, the provider is required to cover the cost to make existing units accessible when a project is viewed in its entirety.
What about information given during the application process? - A housing provider may indicate the availability of accessible units, and ask all applicants if they wish to be considered for such units. If the person indicates this, he/she can be asked to explain and document why the accessibility features are required - even if to answer these questions may involve revealing information about a physical or mental disability (24 CFR. Sec. 8.27).
Can a provider make the ability to live independently a term or condition of tenancy? - No. Instead, the provider must rely on the tenant's ability to meet the standard obligations of tenancy (e.g., maintaining the unit) to determine if the tenant can continue to reside in that unit.
When can a housing provider evict a person with disabilities who damages his/her unit and/or disturbs tenants? - The general rule is that a person with disabilities can be held to the same standards of behavior as those to which a non-disabled person is held. Reasonable accommodation sometimes may require that a landlord make an accommodation in the rule.
What if I Have a Tenant-Landlord Problem?
If you have a problem with your landlord - or have a problem with your tenant, in Maryland you have the following options:
1. Go to The Tenant Section at www.peoples-law.org. This excellent website has summaries of the law, including Maryland law, the Federal law, and local ordinances. These laws apply to all tenants, including tenants in public and subsidized housing. There is more for public and subsidized tenants in the "Tips from the Experts" section.
2. Find an affordable lawyer to help you by going to the peoples-law directory or the directory of the Maryland State Bar Association.
3. Check out the relevant law in the Maryland State Law Library. This site has telephone numbers for each County in Maryland.
4. Telephone the free BNI tenant-landlord hot-line at 1-800-487-6007. They provide free information about the law to both tenants and landlords.
How Do I Get Help with Foreclosure Problems?
There are many sources of help with foreclosure problems in Maryland. The key is to get help as soon as possible, hopefully when you first start having problems in paying your mortgage. Get help right away! If you hesitate, the problem will only grow worse. Help is available at:
1. Governor O’Malley has launched the HOPE Initiative -- Home Owners Preserving Equity. HOPE provides access to counseling services and resources for homeowners needing to refinance. Call 1-877-462-7555 or go to www.mdhope.org for links to foreclosure counseling services.
2. The Maryland Attorney General's Office has a listing of housing counseling agencies by County, as well as other helpful information and links.
3. Check out the www.peoples-law.org foreclosure assistance directory.
Back to the GBCHRB Home Page: www.gbchrb.org or email us.