Fair Housing Act and ADA Regulations in Texas

For building owners, property managers, real estate agents, or other real estate professionals in Texas, knowing and complying with Fair Housing regulations and the Americans with Disabilities Act is crucial. Depending on the location of your property, your role in leasing or sales, and the age of the property, you are subject to federal, state, and local fair housing and ADA laws.

Here, we are outlining the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, we explore Texas accessibility standards and Texas fair housing requirements. It’s important to note that some jurisdictions in Texas have additional protections for marginalized groups not covered by federal and state protections.

Knowing, understanding, and following these fair housing and accessibility laws is crucial to your success as a real estate professional. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in expensive fees and fines, or potential litigation.

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The Federal Fair Housing Act

In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act passed a few years earlier. This bill was an addition to other Civil Rights protections spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After Dr. King’s death, President Lyndon Johnson made a plea to the United States Congress to extend Civil Rights protections to those buying, renting, or selling real estate.

The Fair Housing Act clearly outlines how real estate professionals are to treat clients, how they can prevent violations of the law, and how they can ensure everyone is treated fairly under Fair Housing protections.

Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, people are protected from discrimination when they apply for a mortgage, sign a lease agreement, seek housing assistance, sell a home, buy a home, or engage in any other housing-related activities.

The Fair Housing Act protects buyers, renters, and sellers from discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status (whether or not the person seeking housing is married or unmarried; or if they have children under the age of 18).
  • Disability

Federal Fair Housing Act While the law protects buyers, renters, and sellers from potential discrimination, it also provides guidance to landlords, mortgage lenders, real estate agents, property managers, and other real estate professionals. The Fair Housing Act clearly outlines how real estate professionals are to treat clients, how they can prevent violations of the law, and how they can ensure everyone is treated fairly under Fair Housing protections.

Fair Housing Act and Renting

The Fair Housing Act protects those looking to rent a home, apartment, or other living space. Under the Act, landlords cannot refuse to rent an available home, apartment, or additional residential space based on any of the caveats listed above: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

While uncommon, there are still instances where landlords or property owners violate the Fair Housing Act. The following are examples of renter Fair Housing Act violations:

  • Lying about unit availability to disallow someone from applying to live in the unit.
  • Denying housing without basis.
  • Giving one ethnic group, family, or other classification a higher rate rent simply because of their classification.
  • Blockbusting, or selling a property well below value to avoid allowing certain ethnic or religious groups to move into the neighborhood.
  • Outright refusing to rent or sell a home because of a person’s background, ability, or beliefs.

If a potential lessee feels they are being discriminated against, they can file a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Fair Housing Act and Buying, Selling, or Getting a Mortgage

Fair Housing Act and buying Banks and mortgage lenders must also adhere to the Fair Housing Act. As such, lenders may not refuse anyone a loan simply based on their sex, race, national origin, religion, color, familial status, or disability.

Sometimes, mortgage discrimination can be very subtle. For instance, quoting someone a higher interest rate simply because you don’t agree with their religious views is illegal. So is setting different requirements for a female applicant than a male applicant.

In general, the rules for applying for and obtaining a mortgage should be the same for everyone. If a lender changes the rules for one population, that could be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Also, the Fair Housing Act applies to inspection and appraisal activities as well. It is illegal to misrepresent a property’s availability or condition because of a person’s demographic.

Fair Housing Act and Marketing or Advertising

The Fair Housing Act doesn’t just protect against discrimination when renting or buying a property. The same rules also apply to the marketing and advertising of those properties.

For instance, if you are the property owner, property manager, real estate broker, or other real estate professional in charge of marketing, it’s your responsibility to ensure the marketing materials follow Fair Housing Guidelines.

Indicating a preference for a specific demographic – “couples without children,” for instance, or “non-Spanish speakers” is a clear violation of the regulations. It is also illegal to tell someone of a particular demographic that the neighborhood consists of others from that same demographic. For instance, “you’ll love this neighborhood – lots of young, Christian families” would be against the Fair Housing guidelines for marketing.

These marketing guidelines apply to all types of housing – rentals or buying and selling real property.

Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act Guidelines

There are some instances where property owners, landlords, property managers, and other real estate professionals are exempt from these guidelines. These include:

  • Members-only organizations or private clubs.
  • Single-family homes that are rented or sold without using a real estate broker.
  • Owner-occupied properties with no more than four total units.

For instance, “adult-only” living communities are becoming increasingly popular in America. These facilities or neighborhoods are intended for those ages 55 and older. In this instance, these property owners are exempt from Fair Housing rules regarding age and familial status.

Exemptions also apply to those who:

  • Do not own more than three single-family homes at any one time.
  • Housing owned and operated by a religious organization. However, this exemption applies only to preference based on religion. It is still illegal under this statute to discriminate based on race, color, or national origin.

It’s also important to note that property owners and property managers must still comply with local laws in addition to state and federal guidelines. Check your jurisdiction’s Fair Housing requirements to ensure you follow all Fair Housing regulations.

The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Americans with Disabilities Act More than 20 years after President Lyndon Johnson passed the Fair Housing Act, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law in July 1990. The ADA was a collaborative effort between both parties, members of the administration, and federal and state leaders.

Before the ADA law, those with disabilities faced exclusion, hardship, and prejudice simply because they were perceived as “different.” Even though the Fair Housing Act included some protections for those with disabilities, many public spaces and public transportation were still not accessible to those with physical or mental disabilities.

The ADA changed the way of life for millions of Americans. With the passage of this law, those with disabilities had prominent access to businesses, transportation, and opportunities they didn’t have before.

This law applies to both mental and physical disabilities, which do not need to be permanent or severe for a citizen to qualify for protections. In fact, Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act in 2008, which further expanded these protections to even more Americans.

The ADAAA, as it is known, expanded disability protections to Americans who have cancer, diabetes, certain mood disorders, and epilepsy, among other diseases. The amendment placed the focus on if discrimination occurred instead of what condition the complainant faced at the time.

Americans with Disabilities Act Details

The ADA protects people with disabilities in many facets of life. It’s considered an extension of the Civil Rights Act, ensuring those with physical or mental disabilities can enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else.

ADA protections extend to:

  • Employment
  • School
  • Transportation
  • Public shopping areas
  • Private spaces that are open to the general public
  • Housing
  • Business, offices, and retail centers
  • Public transportation
  • Telecommunications

Since the Act passed in 1990, it has seen several amendments. These amendments further clarify who is included under the ADA, what sectors must comply with these regulations, and has updated provisions as technology advances.

As mentioned above, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 further expanded protections, preventing businesses from arguing that some issues do not count as “disabilities.” Instead, the Amendment asserts, the focus should be on the discrimination, not the diagnosis.

The ADA and Housing

While there are many sectors affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, we are focusing here on how ADA protections apply to housing. For most privately-owned multifamily rental properties or single-family rental properties, ADA regulations do not apply.

The ADA applies more to public spaces and services, and less to private housing. Instead, property owners and managers operate under the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Working Together

Fair Housing Act and ADA together While the Fair Housing Act and the ADA are to separate laws, they do work together to protect residents against housing discrimination.

For instance, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to allow service animals on their property, even if the property doesn’t otherwise accept animals. Service animals (not to be confused with “emotional support animals) are highly-trained animals that help people with disabilities live more productive lives. Those who have a disability and have a trained service animal must be allowed to have that animal in their rental unit, regardless of the property’s policies on animals. (Read more about this below).

In addition, the Fair Housing Act prevents landlords, property owners, property managers, or other real estate professionals from refusing housing or services based on disability. While this is distinctly different from the language in the ADA, it works in conjunction with the ADA to prevent discrimination.

While the Fair Housing Act and the ADA are to separate laws, they do work together to protect residents against housing discrimination.

The ADA is different, however, because it regulates the accommodations necessary in public spaces. That is, wheelchair ramps, accessible parking, and accommodations for the seeing or hearing impaired. However, privately-owned and operated multifamily housing units are not required to provide ADA accommodations in each of their units. That is, while a public restroom requires accessible stalls and grab bars, an apartment complex is not required to provide accessible bathrooms for residents.

The exception to this rule is housing owned and operated by federal or state governments. Military base housing, for instance, must have a designated number of ADA accessible homes. HUD housing must also have a percentage of units ADA accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.

Do Property Owners and Managers Follow Fair Housing Act or ADA Law?

For property owners and property managers, the distinctions between the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act can be confusing. However, if you own or manage private housing – not in conjunction with HUD or another government housing authority – you’re primarily bound under the Fair Housing Act.

Therefore, the most important considerations are that you do not discriminate or fail to provide services to someone based on a disability.

While your public offices may still be lawfully obligated to comply with ADA law regulations, most multifamily properties are not required to be accessible. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, so if you have questions, contact your local housing authority to ensure you are compliant.

ADA Fair Housing and Property Management_Road However, if you own or operate a commercial property – such as an office building, retail center, or industrial property, the ADA will be your primary concern. While the Fair Housing Act doesn’t apply to most commercial real estate properties, the ADA will apply. Property owners and property managers must know the ADA laws in their jurisdictions and comply with those laws. All public use spaces must be accessible to those living with disabilities.

Our highly experienced property management team at CXRE can also help you maintain compliance with the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Standards for Accessible Design

In 2010, the Attorney General revised the ADA guidelines, adding Standards for Accessible Design. Under this revision, architects, builders, and other commercial and residential construction professionals must include planning and accommodations for those with disabilities.

These guidelines only apply to new construction or properties undergoing renovations.

While the Standards for Accessible Design document is daunting – more than 275 pages – it is a guidebook to building a space that allows access for everyone. The booklet outlines several considerations for accessibility, including:

  • The number of accessible parking spaces a building must have, based on the size and occupancy.
  • Aisle and hallway width requirements.
  • Door opening/closing requirements dependent on space.
  • Bathroom accessibility standards.
  • Counter height and other accessibility requirements for ADA housing.
  • Seeing-impaired considerations.
  • Grab bars, handlebars, and ramps.

A multitude of public facilities fall under the Standards for Accessible Design. New construction or renovations of these properties require the owners to adhere to the new Standards.

Properties that fall under the Standards for Accessible Design requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Amusement parks, including amusement park rides.
  • Exercise facilities, including adaptive exercise equipment.
  • Golf facilities, including miniature golf.
  • Swimming pools, wading pools, saunas, and spas.
  • Play areas, playgrounds, and fishing piers or platforms.
  • Government buildings, including correctional facilities, government-owned housing, and judicial centers.

The Standards for Accessible Design ensure those with disabilities can access and enjoy public spaces just like everyone else. The Standards require business owners, property managers, and builders to provide accommodations for those who might enter these spaces or use these facilities.

Failure to Follow ADA Law

For many Americans, finding accessible businesses, recreation, and housing can be a daily challenge. However, the ADA exists to reduce the struggles these citizens face.

When a business or property owner fails to comply with the ADA law, citizens have several ways to report these violations and seek reparations.

First, complainants can file a report with the Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division. These reports can be filed by the person who experienced discrimination, someone who witnessed discrimination, or someone who has concerns about ADA law compliance.

Legal recourse against ADA and Fair Housing If the investigation has merit, a Civil Rights investigator will examine the case. In that instance, the investigator will contact the complainant and other witnesses to get more detailed information about the claim. From here, the case against the business or building owner may move to a lawsuit or will be brought before the court to negotiate a formal settlement.

Secondly, those who feel they have experienced discrimination may choose to contact their state or local Fair Housing and ADA Law division to make a complaint. In Texas, residents can contact the Texas Department of Public Safety. Claims should be filed within 30 days of the alleged violation, if possible.

Like a federal complaint, anyone can file a grievance against a Texas business or landlord: the person with a disability, a family member or friend, an employee, or a witness to the incident.

Each claim will be investigated, and, if the business has a pattern of noncompliance, the business could face fines, fees, and potential litigation.

Fair Housing, ADA, and Commercial Real Estate

For commercial real estate property owners or property managers, understanding the difference between these two laws is essential.

Multifamily property owners must comply with both the Fair Housing Act and the ADA. Primarily, these CRE property owners or managers will focus on Fair Housing regulations since that’s the bulk of their business. However, public access areas, like lobbies, gyms, swimming pools, or leasing offices, must be ADA compliant.

In contrast, other sectors of commercial real estate will focus more on the Americans with Disabilities Act. Office properties, retail establishments, warehouses, and other commercial locations do not provide housing. As such, owners and property managers won’t concern themselves with Fair Housing requirements. Instead, these areas must meet accessibility requirements for workers, clients and customers, and members of the general public.

Fair Housing Act and ADA Compliance in Texas

Fair Housing and ADA in Texas While all states must adhere to the federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, each state and local jurisdiction may pass additional protections as well. Many states include other provisions to prevent discrimination beyond what the federal laws require.

In Texas, lawmakers added to the federal housing and accessibility regulations to include a more diverse group of people. By identifying marginalized groups that have experienced discrimination in the past, many local municipalities can address these social problems and create laws to solve them.

Here, we are examining Texas state Fair Housing and Disability laws specific to the Lone Star State.

Fair Housing Regulations in Texas

First, we should note that the Federal Fair Housing Act does not protect residents against discrimination based on age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or source of income, among other factors.

Some states have updated their housing provisions to include these protections. Texas, however, has remained mainly in line with the Federal Fair Housing Act, outlawing housing discrimination based solely on the demographics listed above.

Texas does include one protection not found in the federal Fair Housing Act. In addition to the federal law preventing discrimination based on familial status, Texas also prohibits housing discrimination for women who are pregnant. Besides this one caveat, there aren’t any additional fair housing laws in Texas.

Though Texas as a whole doesn’t prohibit housing discrimination based on income source, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other social factors, some cities have taken up this charge:

  • In 1982, Austin became one of the first cities in the nation to prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • In 2000, Fort Worth added sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected classification under local housing laws.
  • Dallas updated its fair housing laws in 2002 to protect members of the LGBT community, and in 2015, the Dallas City Council expanded protections for transgender individuals.
  • In 2013, San Antonio joined many other cities, expanding fair housing protections to the LGBT community.
  • Houston became one of the largest cities in the nation to pass fair housing protections for LGBT individuals in 2014.
  • Other cities have also expanded protections based on sexual orientation, including Grand Prairie, El Paso, Plano, Waco, and Lubbock.

The City of Austin also recently passed an ordinance protecting its citizens against discrimination based on the housing income source. That is, very low-income families using a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) were experiencing discrimination from landlords who refused to rent to HCV holders.

Austin lawmakers determined that these residents should be protected under the Fair Housing regulations of the city. Currently, these protections are under fire from the Texas state court system.

Finally, note that federal lawmakers are working to extend housing protections to marginalized groups throughout the country. Landlords, property owners, and other real estate professionals must stay updated about changing laws.

ADA Regulations in Texas

Texas accessibility standards fall firmly in line with the national Americans with Disabilities Act. However, in addition to regulating accommodations in public spaces, Texas accessibility standards also apply to housing rentals.

Not only do ADA laws protect residents from discrimination during the housing search process, but Texas accessibility standards also ensure that residents can safely live in their homes and access local businesses and buildings.

Under Texas housing statutes, a landlord, property owner, property manager, or other real estate professional may not discriminate against anyone based on an actual or perceived disability. This includes rental activities, applying for a mortgage, selling a home, or purchasing a home.

ADA regulations in Texas protect not only the potential lessee or buyer, but also anyone with whom they might live, a family member, or anyone else associated with them. A landlord cannot discriminate against a tenant, for instance, if he or she has a child who is disabled.

Furthermore, landlords must make reasonable accommodations to practices, rules, or services to give the disabled resident access to the same facilities and living experience as other residents.

ADA Regulations in Texas Not only do ADA laws protect residents from discrimination during the housing search process, but Texas accessibility standards also ensure that residents can safely live in their homes and access local businesses and buildings.

Under ADA regulations is Texas, landlords cannot prevent someone from making necessary modifications to a living space because of their disability. Similarly, landlords must make public use spaces – such as common areas, lobbies, outdoor communal areas, and swimming pools – accessible to all residents, regardless of ability.

To comply with these ADA regulations in Texas, landlords, building owners, and property managers may have to make changes to existing light fixtures, counter heights, thermostats, public bathrooms, or other suggestions in accordance with the Standards for Accessible Design outlined by the Federal ADA.

Also, businesses with more than 50 employees must designate an ADA Coordinator. This person will handle all ADA concerns and complaints from staff, clients, or other individuals.

Texas Accessibility Standards

In 2012, the Texas legislature adopted the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS). These guidelines apply to all new construction or renovations done to publicly accessible buildings in Texas.

While not all buildings are subject to these standards, many are. Under the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards publication, the following structures are required to meet these standards:

  • Any public building constructed or renovated in whole or in part after January 1, 1970, if that building was constructed using state, county, or other government municipality funds.
  • Emergency facilities or temporary lodging facility.
  • Buildings owned or leased by a government entity, if the lease agreement went into effect on or after January 1, 1972.
  • Private buildings or facilities constructed or renovated on or after January 1, 1992, as outlined in the TAS documents. These facilities include, but are not limited to:
    • Hotels, inns, and other temporary lodging that contain more than five rooms for rent.
    • Restaurants, bars, or other establishments serving food and drinks.
    • Theaters, stadiums, concert halls, or other venues providing exhibition or entertainment.
    • Auditoriums, convention halls, and other areas for public gathering.
    • Retail establishments, including grocery centers, clothing stores, bakery, hardware shops, or other retail centers.
    • Service facilities such as gas stations, laundromats, dry cleaners, beauty salons, funeral parlors, accountant or tax offices, law offices, healthcare facilities, or other service profession spaces.
    • Any station or depot used for public transportation: bus stops, train stations, taxi depots, and the like.
    • Public parks, zoos, amusement parks, or other places of recreation.
    • Museums, libraries, galleries, or other establishments of public display or collection.
    • Places of education, including preschools, elementary, middle, or high schools, and higher education institutions.
    • Daycare centers, senior citizens living or care facilities, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies, or other social service locations.
    • Places of recreation and health, including gyms, spas, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and golf courses.

Religious centers must typically comply with the Texas Accessibility Standards, except where explicitly noted under the law.

As noted above, there are some exemptions to Texas Accessibility Standards, including certain places of religious gathering or worship, parking garages constructed before April 1994, and the portions of residential properties meant only for residents and their guests.

Architectural Barriers Act

As part of the Texas Accessibility Standards, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation created the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act. This code guides builders, construction companies, property owners, and property managers in accessibility requirements for those with disabilities.

The purpose of this law is to require public buildings to provide accessibility for those living with disabilities. Under the law, most recently updated in September 2019, building owners and property managers must ensure their spaces are accessible to those with nonambulatory and semiambulatory disabilities, sight disabilities, hearing disabilities, disabilities of coordination, or disabilities associated with aging.

For new construction or major renovations of a property, developers are beholden to the laws outlined in the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act. Projects are subject to initial inspection before the project and final inspection upon completion. These inspections will ensure that the project meets accessibility standards set out by the Federal ADA and the Texas Accessibility Standards.

These standards, enacted in 2012, outline specific guidelines for building construction or renovation.

Compliance with the Texas Accessibility Standards

In accordance with the TAS, new construction and renovations of existing spaces must meet accessibility guidelines. To ensure compliance, contractors or building owners must submit building plans to a “registered accessibility specialist or contract provider for review if the estimated construction cost is at least $50,000.” (TAS, Section 68.50)

Compliance with ADA in Texas A registered accessibility specialist will review these plans for approval. A registered accessibility specialist is licensed by the state. These specialists must have a college degree in architecture, engineering, interior design, or a similar field. In addition, the individual must have at least eight years of experience in building inspection, construction, planning, accessibility design, or related fields before becoming a registered accessibility specialist. Once certified, these individuals receive continuing education to maintain proficiency on Texas Accessibility Standards.

Once the renovations or construction are completed, the building owner or contractor must have an official TAS inspection from a registered accessibility specialist to ensure compliance. This inspection should take place no later than one year from the date of completion.

Failure to comply with these standards is costly. First-time violations can be fined as much as $75,000, with additional violations costing $150,000. Complainants may also file lawsuits against the property owner, business, property manager, or other real estate professional.

To see what not to do, you can visit the Americans with Disabilities Act litigation page. Here, you can read through past lawsuits against businesses that did not adhere to ADA guidelines.

ADA Compliance in Texas

Building owners, contractors, and builders must adhere to ADA compliance in Texas. These guidelines, outlined here, ensure all new construction and renovations done to public access buildings include considerations for those with physical disabilities.

These guidelines, mentioned above, apply to:

  • Publicly-funded buildings or structures built on or after 1970. These structures must meet the current ADA compliance guidelines outlines by Texas law. This includes military bases, detention centers, legislative offices, and other government institutions. Under this law, these buildings must undergo renovation to meet the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards.
  • Privately-funded construction or renovation for buildings with public access that were built or renovated on or after 1992. If a renovation project costs more than $50,000, the construction plans must be reviewed and approved by a registered accessibility specialist.

Penalties for failing to meet these guidelines vary. However, each day the structure fails to meet these requirements will be considered a separate penalty.

ADA and Service Animals

One area where landlords often run into trouble with the Americans with Disabilities Act is with service dogs. For tenants with disabilities, landlords must allow service animals to live on the premises, even if the property is otherwise animal-free.

Landlords and business owners must allow certified service animals to accompany anyone with a disability.

However, with a recent rise in individuals claiming “emotional support animals,” the ADA has revised their statutes to add clarity to this rule.

According to Title II and Title III of the ADA, service animals (usually dogs) are trained to perform specific tasks for those living with a “physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” These include animals that perform tasks associated with the disability: pulling a wheelchair, alerting to someone at the door, retrieving household goods, or pressing elevator buttons.

Landlords and business owners must allow certified service animals to accompany anyone with a disability.

In contrast, emotional support animals – any animal providing comfort, but not trained in specific tasks – is not protected under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Emotional support animals do not meet the particular needs of the disabled individual. Therefore, they do not fall under service animal protections.

Landlords, property owners, and property managers are not required to allow tenants to have emotional support animals on the premises under the ADA. Likewise, business owners are not required to allow emotional support animals into their offices.

However, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords for multifamily properties or single-family homes may have to allow tenants to have emotional support animals. Many emotional support animals help their owners with loneliness, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a myriad of other issues. Because many of these issues might be considered disabilities, the emotional support animals fall under “reasonable accommodations” for the tenants.

As such, landlords typically must allow both service animals and emotional support animals into their properties. Additionally, landlords must waive all fees associated with pet policies for the property.

While it is illegal for landlords to ask about specific details of a tenant’s illness or disability, they can ask for documentation to ensure an emotional support animal is legitimate.

How to Make Sure Fair Housing and ADA Guidelines are Readily Achievable

Being accused of a Fair Housing or ADA violation is serious. If a property owner, property manager, mortgage lender, or other real estate professional fails to comply with these standards, the penalties can be severe.

Readily Achievable Guidelines Therefore, to ensure you comply with all Fair Housing and ADA guidelines – both in Texas and in other states – it’s essential to make sure you know and understand the regulations thoroughly. Fair Housing guidelines aren’t set in stone. In fact, new rules just went into place in New York, so Texas could likely see changes in the future as well. Keep abreast of all changing regulations to make sure you meet the most updated standards.

Since violations can be costly (tens of thousands of dollars in fines, plus potential litigation), the best option is to treat every client exactly the same. The application process, vetting process, lending process, and customer service should be identical for each client, regardless of their background.

Sometimes, discrimination is not intentional and can be subtle. The following are examples of discrimination, for which you could be held liable:

  • Saying a home or unit isn’t available simply because you’re unsure about the applicant. That is, your hidden bias is determining which people you will – and won’t – allow to live in your property.
  • Requiring higher application fees, down payments, or other terms for one applicant over another on any basis other than financial background.
  • Harassment, whether overt or subtle, of any applicant, tenant, seller, or buyer.
  • “Steering” buyers or renters to or away from specific housing areas based on perceived biases. That is, telling a family to stay away from a particular area because “the schools here aren’t great,” or telling a couple without children that “this neighborhood has a lot of little kids.”
  • Refusal of a landlord to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.

Finally, if you are concerned about Fair Housing or ADA compliance, let a property management team help. At CXRE, our experienced, professional, and dedicated property management team knows Fair Housing and ADA compliance laws backward and front. We constantly monitor and audit your business’s practices to ensure you meet federal and local requirements.

If you want to learn more about how CXRE property management can protect your assets and keep you from violating Fair Housing and ADA laws, please contact us today. We would love to talk to you about your property and the laws affecting your business.

 

FAQs about Fair Housing and ADA Requirements in Texas

What does the Fair Housing Act cover?

FAQs The Federal Fair Housing Act protects citizens from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability. Familial status protects tenants, homeowners, and home sellers regardless of their marital status or parental status. In the state of Texas, these provisions also apply to pregnant women.

Some local jurisdictions, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Waco, have adopted additional protections for other marginalized groups. Building owners, property managers, real estate agents, and other real estate professionals should know the specific protections for their local area to prevent noncompliance.

All real estate professionals must comply with federal, state, and local laws.

Are the Fair Housing Act and ADA Laws the same thing?

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are different. Under the Fair Housing Act, a property owner, property manager, real estate agent, mortgage broker, or other real estate professional cannot discriminate based on disability. That is, the Fair Housing Act protects residents looking for a place to live.

In contrast, the ADA regulates public spaces and the provisions these businesses must provide for those with disabilities. Many of these regulations do not apply to private housing accommodations but instead apply only to government-owned housing or public spaces.

The two laws work together to protect those living with disabilities.

To whom do the Federal Housing and ADA Requirements apply?

In one word: everyone. While the Fair Housing Act and ADA laws don’t necessarily cover every marginalized group in America, they protect everyone in America. That is, if discrimination occurs based on any of the covered classifications, the business or housing staff could be reported.

Children, teens, adults, and senior citizens are all included in the Fair Housing Act and ADA laws. No one should face discrimination based on their race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, or disability. Likewise, no one should have limited access to public spaces simply because they live with a disability.

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act protect those living with disabilities from discrimination. The Fair Housing Act applies mainly to renting, buying, or selling property. The ADA applies to activities outside the home, like businesses, service providers, and public transportation.

How are Texas Fair Housing regulations different from federal protections?

Texas Fair Housing regulations largely parallel the federal protections. Some states have adopted much more specific anti-discrimination policies, but Texas hasn’t strayed much from the original protections adopted in 1968.

The only addition has been to clarify that “familial status” also includes pregnant women. Besides that change, there are not any additional protections regarding fair housing practices in Texas.

However, some local municipalities have added protections beyond those covered under Texas law (see below).

Do some cities have different Fair Housing laws than other Texas municipalities?

Yes. While the State of Texas hasn’t included any additional protections for marginalized groups, many cities and local municipalities have voted for stricter anti-discrimination policies.

Many local governments have added protections for members of the LGBT community, as well as some standards to prevent discrimination based on the housing income source.

  • In 1982, Austin became one of the first cities in the nation to prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • In 2000, Fort Worth added sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected classification under local housing laws.
  • Dallas updated its fair housing laws in 2002 to protect members of the LGBT community, and in 2015, the Dallas City Council expanded protections for transgender individuals.
  • In 2013, San Antonio joined many other cities, expanding fair housing protections to the LGBT community.
  • Houston became one of the largest cities in the nation to pass fair housing protections for LGBT individuals in 2014.
  • Other cities have also expanded protections based on sexual orientation, including Grand Prairie, El Paso, Plano, Waco, and Lubbock.

The City of Austin also recently passed an ordinance protecting its citizens against discrimination based on the housing income source. That is, very low-income families using a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) experienced discrimination from landlords who refused to rent to HCV holders.

Austin lawmakers determined that city Fair Housing Regulations should protect these residents. Currently, these protections are under fire from the Texas state court system.

National legislators have introduced bills that would extend housing protections to other marginalized groups not covered by the Fair Housing Act. Property managers and owners should stay updated on any changing laws to ensure they are compliant.

How are Texas ADA laws different from federal protections?

Texas ADA laws parallel federal protections fairly closely. However, the law clearly outlines Texas Accessibility Standards and paints a clear picture of how building owners, property managers, and other professionals must comply.

These standards, passed into law in 2012, require new construction and some renovations to meet very specific accessibility guidelines. All government-funded structures built on or after 1970 must undergo renovation to meet these standards. In addition, privately-funded buildings constructed on or after 1992 must also meet these requirements.

To ensure compliance, Texas utilizes registered accessibility specialists who will review construction plans and approve them based on accessibility features. These same specialists will also inspect a structure after renovations or construction are complete to ensure compliance.

Are there any exceptions to these laws?

Yes. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, these rules do not apply to single-family homes leased by the owner. (That is, property not leased by a broker). Exemptions also apply to owner-occupied homes with no more than four units and members-only or private member housing communities.

In addition, there are certain exemptions for Texas Accessibility Standards. These include some religious institutions and parking garages built before 1994. Also, renovations of privately-funded public buildings totaling less than an estimated $50,000 do not need approval from a registered accessibility specialist.

How does HUD and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs enforce these laws?

The approach to Fair Housing and ADA enforcement is twofold. First, there are HUD agents who pose as buyers, sellers, or renters. These agents go to housing complexes to see if there is any sign of discrimination based on demographics. Secondly, HUD and local Texas housing authorities receive violation complaints from members of the public. These offices thoroughly investigate each claim to ensure all citizens are treated fairly.

If a landlord or other real estate professional is in violation of the Fair Housing Act or the ADA, they could face severe penalties.

Penalties for ADA or fair housing violations vary, but those found to be non-compliant could face fees of up to $150,000. In addition, property owners, property managers, or other real estate professionals could face lawsuits from complainants.

I’m a property owner or property manager. How can I ensure I don’t violate the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act?

First and foremost, know and understand the laws of your local municipality. Even if you’re familiar with federal guidelines, Texas fair housing and accessibility standards are different. Plus, each city within Texas has its own protections as well.

For instance, it is legal to refuse housing based on someone’s sexual orientation under federal and Texas state law. Still, it is illegal to do so within Dallas city limits.

Knowing the laws is the best way to ensure compliance.

Secondly, contact a trusted and experienced commercial property management team in your area. Here at CXRE, our team of high-quality property managers and staff know local laws. We will ensure that property owners are always in compliance. We can help you meet fair housing and ADA regulations for each of your properties. Contact us to learn more about our services.

What are the Texas Accessibility Standards?

The Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) are a set of laws passed by the legislature in 2012. The TAS outlines specific regulations for accessibility in public spaces.

The guidelines specify that any new construction, or the renovation of certain facilities, must meet stringent accessibility requirements. A registered accessibility specialist will review renovation or construction plans before work takes place to ensure compliance with these laws.

The accessibility standards cover a variety of accommodations. These include ramps, hallway widths, bathroom stall locations, and handrail placement. Other considerations include accessible parking spaces, and accommodations for the visual and hearing impaired.

What is the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act?

The Texas Accessibility Standards are part of the Elimination of Architectural Barriers Act.

The purpose of this law is to require public buildings to provide accessibility for those living with disabilities. Under the law, building owners and property managers must ensure their spaces are accessible to those with nonambulatory and semiambulatory disabilities, sight disabilities, hearing disabilities, disabilities of coordination, or disabilities associated with aging.

Are Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals covered under the ADA or the Fair Housing Act?

Service animals and emotional support animals are distinctly separate under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service animals receive extensive training and can perform specific tasks for individuals living with a disability.

In contrast, the ADA views emotional support animals as an animal that provides comfort. However, they do not have the training to assist someone with a disability.

To that end, the ADA does not consider emotional support animals a part of protected law. Businesses and other locations governed by ADA requirements do not have to allow emotional support animals. However, they must allow service dogs to accompany their owners. Owners must also allow service animals on the property without charging a pet deposit or other associated fees.

However, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords may face different rules. The Fair Housing Act requires property owners, property managers, or landlords to make “reasonable accommodations” for anyone with a disability. In the Act, disabilities include emotional, mental, or psychiatric disabilities. To this end, an emotional support animal could be considered a “reasonable accommodation.”

Under this provision, landlords must allow tenants to have both service animals and emotional support animals. Furthermore, landlords must waive any fees associated with having pets on the property.

What can my tenant or client do if they feel they experienced discrimination?

Tenants, clients, homeowners, and homebuyers have the right to file a grievance if they feel they have experienced discrimination. If that’s the case, residents can contact the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and file a claim against the landlord, mortgage lender, seller, buyer, or other real estate professional.

Violations include any activity that goes against the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In Texas, those who wish to file violation concerns can contact the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Residents can also file complaints with the housing authorities in their local jurisdictions. Contact the TDHCA for more information about filing with your local municipality.

Texas residents can also contact the Attorney General’s Office to file an ADA grievance. The office of the Attorney General will investigate all claims of noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The AG Office will work to resolve the issue.

 

To learn more about Texas Fair Housing regulations and the Americans with Disabilities Act, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

If you have questions about your property, we can help you ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today to speak with an expert property manager.

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