What do you need to know about the Fair Housing Act when applying for a VA home loan? Fair Housing laws were enacted to protect house hunters from discrimination. Basically it’s illegal to deny a loan or housing to someone for non-financial reasons such as race, religion, family status, sexual orientation, gender, perceived gender, handicap, or other non-financial issues.
What You Need To Know About The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that specifically prohibits discrimination in any stage of the housing process for the following reasons:
- race or color
- national origin
- familial status or lack thereof
These rules apply to all stages of the housing process–not just the VA home loan process–and you should know that it is a violation of federal law to be denied a loan, the purchase of a home, the rental of a living unit, lease renewal or any other aspect of housing based on the criteria above.
And that’s not all. Fair Housing Act laws even apply to the advertising of housing and housing-related products.
In 2019, NPR Morning Edition published an article describing a case brought by the federal government against Facebook, alleging that it violated Fair Housing laws by allowing advertisers to target certain segments of the population and exclude others on the basis of demographic data which could include race, national origin, and other aspects protected under the Fair Housing Act.
VA home loans enjoy the same Fair Housing law protections as any other type of mortgage loan, and military members looking for housing should not, under the law, be discriminated against for being “single soldier parents” or having a family with or without being legally married, etc.
What Fair Housing Laws Forbid
Whether you are buying a home using a VA mortgage, an FHA home loan, USDA, or conventional mortgage, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reminds that it is considered a violation of federal law to do any of the following on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin:
- Refuse to rent housing
- Refuse to sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Otherwise make housing unavailable
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide “different housing services or facilities” than offered to others
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental
- Create any notice, statement or advertisement about the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates preference, limitation, or discrimination
- Use different qualification criteria or applications, or sale or rental standards
- Limit privileges, services or facilities of a dwelling
- Discourage the purchase or rental of a dwelling
- Assign a person to a particular building or neighborhood or section of a building or neighborhood
- For profit, persuade, or try to persuade, homeowners to sell their homes by suggesting that people of a particular protected characteristic are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting)
Disabled Veterans And The Fair Housing Act
Disabled veterans cannot be discriminated against because of their disability when seeking housing whether renting, buying with a VA mortgage, or purchasing in some other way. It is both illegal to refuse to rent or sell to a disabled person, and it is also illegal to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for the disabled applicant, renter, buyer, etc. But that’s not all.
If you want to purchase a home with VA mortgage, you cannot be discriminated against for your disabilities in any stage of the process including viewing, inspecting, or otherwise having access to the property as a prospective buyer or renter.
If the seller or renter refuses a reasonable accommodation to the veteran, this may be legally actionable under Fair Housing laws. You can’t be denied housing because a reasonable accommodation may be required, and you cannot refuse reasonable accommodations being made to make the home more accessible to the disabled renter, borrower, buyer, etc.
As mentioned above, the seller, lender, real estate agent, or any other party to the housing transaction cannot discourage the disabled applicant from applying on the basis of non-financial qualifications such as disability.
Even the simple statement “You know this building isn’t ADA-compliant” might be considered a violation of federal law as a type of prohibited discouragement. Know your rights and don’t assume even the most minor infractions won’t be acted upon if reported to the federal government.
How The Fair Housing Act Applies
Most housing is covered under the Fair Housing Act, but not all. Whether you are buying or renting, using a VA mortgage loan application or not, there are some nuances to the Fair Housing Act you should know about.
For starters, there are some circumstances described by HUD as being “very limited” where Fair Housing laws do not apply including “owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members”.
Report Violations Of The Fair Housing Act
If you experience discrimination while trying to buy a home with a VA mortgage, you should report it immediately to your nearest VA office. You will need to submit VA Form 26-8827 to report the discrimination and the local VA office will be responsible for investigating your problem.
But don’t stop there–unless otherwise directed by the VA rep, also file your complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777. You can also file a complaint at the HUD official site. Access for the hearing impaired is available to file a complaint via the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News