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U.S. Co-Op Housing Issues Law Blog

Housing discrimination issues

When people begin looking for co-op housing in Michigan their top priority is finding a home that meets the needs of their family. Unfortunately, some of these seekers may encounter discrimination when they try to arrange a viewing or apply to join the community.

Federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it clear that it is illegal for a homeowner, landlord or co-op board to discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, nationality, disability and several other immutable characteristics. While there is some evidence that housing discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity has been on the decline, violations continue to occur.

College student wins in effort to keep service cat in dorm

Michigan residents who are disabled have protections under the federal Fair Housing Act. Under the law, landlords must offer reasonable accommodations to people who are disabled.

This act came into play when a disabled college student sued North Carolina State University in 2016 for discrimination. The student, who lives in student housing, sued after the university refused to allow her emotional support cat to stay in her dorm room. She recently reached a settlement with the university.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of co-ops?

Co-op housing is not for everyone, but it can offer several advantages over renting or private home ownership. Co-ops can be appealing alternatives to living in a house, condo, or apartment. For all their positive points, they can also have downsides.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether co-op housing is the right fit for your lifestyle and needs. When you are choosing whether to live in a housing cooperative, keep in mind these important points as you make your selection.

Sexual harassment is a housing issue

People living in Michigan co-ops generally appreciate living in a well-managed building. They expect to be able to live and conduct their lives free of harassment, fear and intimidation. Some managers or employees of the property, however, may engage in sexual harassment against residents. Such harassment is illegal, and tenants have a right to protection against it.

The problem of sexual harassment in housing is significant. In some cases, landlords, property managers, custodians or security may make unwanted advances toward tenants. Another tactic is to threaten a tenant with eviction or refusal to make necessary repairs unless the tenant agrees to a date or to perform a sex act.

Racial discrimination housing complaints on the rise

Political tensions in the country have led to an increase in accusations of racial discrimination. In this atmosphere, Michigan authorities that manage public housing have a greater chance of receiving complaints from residents or potential renters who feel mistreated because of their race, sex, religion, disability status or national origin.

The National Fair Housing Alliance has documented a rise in hate-oriented incidents. In 2016, it took in 28,181 complaints regarding housing discrimination, which represented about 200 more complaints than the preceding year. According to its records, disability represented the leading reason for discrimination in housing at 55 percent of the complaints. Racial discrimination came in second at 19.6 percent of complaints.

Learn more about the Fair Housing Act

When Michigan residents go to buy or rent a home, apartment, co-op or townhouse, they may be covered under the Fair Housing Act. It states that most landlords and homeowners cannot discriminate based on factors such as race, national origin or familial status. Familial status means that a landlord or property owner generally cannot refuse to deal with someone who is pregnant or has children under the age of 18.

There are several specific acts that landlords and property owners cannot take under the FHA. For instance, it is illegal to deny a dwelling to a protected person or protected group. It would also be illegal to falsely indicate that a home or apartment is not for rent when it actually is. Other illegal actions include changing loan or purchase terms based on a person's nationality or other protected attribute.

What the law says about housing for the disabled

Michigan residents may be protected by a piece of legislation called the Fair Housing Act. It makes it generally illegal for landlords or homeowners to discriminate against those with disabilities when renting or selling most types of housing. Accommodations may need to be made to help a disabled person live comfortably in his or her apartment. Reasonable accommodations may also need to be made to rules or regulations a disabled homeowner or tenant may be subject to.

For purposes of the Fair Housing Act, a handicap may be either mental or physical. It is also important to note that there are exceptions to the terms of the Fair Housing Act. For instance, they may not apply to the sale or rental of a single-family home if the owner of the property owns or has an interest in three or fewer homes at the time of the sale. Furthermore, the terms may not apply if the home is being sold or rented without a real estate agent.

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