Adventures in Property Management

Fair Housing Discrimination

System - Sunday, November 12, 2017
Property Management Blog

Attorney Jeremy Shorts - Utah Eviction Law

One of our property management clients repeatedly states – “It’s not IF you’ll get sued, but WHEN.” Even if a landlord does everything right, it doesn’t mean that they will never be sued. But cutting legal corners can quickly put you in very difficult situations.

A common legal mess landlords can find themselves in is in the area of fair housing and discrimination. Utah has a few groups dedicated to investigating and prosecuting fair housing violations. Some complaints come from existing or potential tenants, but others come from “testers”. In Utah, if a fair housing violation is suspected a “tester” will call and ask questions to confirm what is going on. After researching other units that the landlord has, these testers may be different people calling on different properties asking different questions about fair housing laws. It’s important for landlords to be cautious and follow the law. Utah’s Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) is found in Utah Code Ann. §57-21- 1 to 14. In its most basic terms, it prohibits landlords from treating existing or prospective tenants differently based on their status in a “protected class”.

Under federal law, there are seven protected classes:

  1. Race
  2. Color
  3. Sex
  4. Religion
  5. National origin
  6. Disability
  7. Familial status.

Utah law has these same seven classes, but adds three more:

  1. Source of income
  2. Gender identity
  3. Sexual orientation.

In Utah, the most common areas of violations or complaints are usually based on (1) disability, (2) familial status, and (3) source of income. Landlords should not charge additional fees or treat people differently because the tenant belongs to one of these protected classes.

Let me give you a subtle example of discrimination – A landlord receives two voicemails inquiring about the same unit. The first voicemail sounds like a very pleasant woman who mentions her husband was just hired by the local university and they’re looking at renting from you. The second voicemail is from someone with an accent that you can’t understand very well asking about the same unit. Who do you call back? BOTH OF THEM. Who do you show the apartment to? BOTH OF THEM. Who do you take an application from? BOTH OF THEM. Who do you approve? This is where you apply your standard qualification requirements equally to the applications as they come in, and you take the first qualified applicant. Again, even if landlords do everything right it doesn’t guarantee they won’t have to deal with a fair housing complaint. But dotting your “I”s and crossing your “T”s will protect you not IF, but WHEN you are confronted with a complaint.

For more information on Fair Housing and Discrimination please call Utah Eviction Law 801-610-9879 or visit them at