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What you should know about the U.S. Supreme Court’s fair-housing decision

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07/02/2015 | Author: Editorial Staff

In an opinion issued on June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of the legal theory known as disparate impact under the federal Fair Housing Act, but with certain limits. This ruling means individuals may be able to establish a violation of the Fair Housing Act by proving a certain practice has a discriminatory effect, regardless of whether there was intent to discriminate.

The decision is a result of a case brought against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) by the Inclusive Communities Project, a Texas nonprofit group that alleged the TDHCA had violated the Fair Housing Act through “continued segregated housing patterns by allocating too many tax credits to housing in predominately black inner-city areas and too few in predominately white suburban neighborhoods.”

Although the Supreme Court decided the Fair Housing Act does allow disparate-impact claims, it also imposed significant limitations when making such a claim. For instance, the Court made clear that disparate-impact claims cannot be based solely on statistical differences. A plaintiff, like a tenant, would have to show that a defendant’s policy actually caused that discriminatory effect. And defendants cannot be liable under a disparate-impact theory if they can show the particular policy is necessary to achieve a valid, legitimate interest, and a plaintiff cannot prove there is an actual available alternative that has less disparate impact and still serves that interest.

What you should do 
Remember, be uniform and consistent in your treatment of clients or customers—from sellers or buyers to tenants or rental applicants—as well as in your policies and procedures. Be sure to maintain documents, like work files, for the required period of time. For instance, a leasing agent may want to document the legitimate reasons a particular applicant was rejected as a tenant. This and other good practices may prove handy if a Fair Housing Act claim is ever brought against you.

Categories: Legal
Tags: fair housing, legal, supreme court

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Legal disclaimer

The material provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice for your particular matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Applicability of the legal principles discussed in this material may differ substantially in individual situations.

While the Texas Association of REALTORS® has used reasonable efforts in collecting and preparing materials included here, due to the rapidly changing nature of the real estate marketplace and the law, and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the Texas Association of REALTORS® makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of any information provided here or elsewhere on texasrealestate.com. Any legal or other information found here, on texasrealestate.com, or at other sites to which we link, should be verified before it is relied upon.

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