Property Management Blog

North Carolina Fair Housing Act: An Overview

KRS Holdings - Tuesday, May 31, 2022

north carolina landlord-tenant

The enactment of the Fair Housing Act in the US occurred on April 11, 1968. The main goal of the act was to prohibit housing discrimination, either in the rental or sale of housing. 

As an NC landlord, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the fair housing laws and act to avoid potential housing discrimination claims from your tenants and enforce equal opportunity while renting. 

What is the Goal of the Fair Housing Act? 

The goal of the Fair Housing Act is to end discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on certain protected characteristics. Landlords, property owners, real estate agents, and property managers all need to be aware of what the Fair Housing Law covers and how they can avoid any discriminatory behavior. 

There is both a state and federal Fair Housing Act. Protections exist at both federal and state levels. In North Carolina, the protected classes are race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disabilities, and familial status (i.e. having children or not). 

What Types of Properties Does the North Carolina Fair Housing Act Cover? 

The North Carolina Fair Housing Laws cover most residential units. 

Examples include single-family homes, condos, apartments, group homes, migrant housing, long-term lodging, and even shelters for the homeless and domestic violence victims. 

In very limited circumstances, the Fair Housing laws have a few exceptions. These are: 

  • A single-family home that the property owner rents out without using real estate agents or services. 
  • A dwelling with 4 or fewer units that are specifically owner-occupied buildings. 
  • Private clubs that give preference to their members. 
  • Organizations that give preference to their members, such as religious organizations. 

What Local State Agency Enforces the Fair Housing Act? 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is the main federal agency tasked with enforcing the federal Fair Housing Act. 

fair housing nc

Some states also have government agencies that enforce the act at the local level. North Carolina is one of them. 

Anyone who feels discriminated against for housing-related matters due to their religion, national origin or other protected classes can file Fair Housing Complaints with the North Carolina Human Relations Commission (HRC).

Are There Penalties for People Found Guilty of Housing Discrimination? 

Yes, there are.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), first-time violators of the federal Fair Housing Act can be penalized a maximum of $16,000. For those who violate the act again within five years, the maximum penalty currently stands at $37,500. 

And for those with more than two fair housing violations within 7 years, the maximum penalty is a whopping $65,000. 

In addition to the aforementioned civil penalties, other penalties for violating the Fair Housing Act can also include the following:

  • Being responsible for your tenant’s compensatory damages. This can include having to pay their out-of-pocket expenses as they seek alternative housing. 
  • Punitive damages for the wrongdoing where the intent is found to be either malicious or willful. 

What Are Some Examples of Fair Housing Act Violations that Landlords Should be Aware of? 

North Carolina landlords have the responsibility to make sure their tenant screening and placement process is free of housing discrimination. 

When investing in NC real estate, remember that you can up having to pay fines for violations of the Fair Housing laws if you’re not careful.

lease application nc

It’s possible to unknowingly and unintentionally violate the Fair Housing Act, leading to legal trouble. Here are some examples to avoid under the Fair Housing Laws:

  • Failing to rent your vacant unit to a tenant because of characteristics such as race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, and so on. 
  • Lying that your rental home isn’t available for rent because a prospective tenant has a characteristic you don’t like, such as being pregnant or having children. 
  • Using different qualifying criteria for housing applications depending on the applicant’s race, color, national origin, religion, or any other protected class. 
  • Treating tenant maintenance requests differently based on who asked for them. 
  • Threatening or interfering with your tenant’s exercise of their fair housing rights. 
  • Providing different tenants with different services, amenities, rent prices, and accommodations based on a protected characteristic like religion or national origin.
  • Refusing to make accommodations for a prospective tenant with a physical disability. 
  • Refusing to allow a person to have their service animal in the unit. 

What Rights Do Disabled Tenants in North Carolina Have Under Fair Housing Regulations?

People with disabilities have the right to fair housing. This means that it’d be unlawful for you to discriminate against your renter because of their disability. For example: 

  • Rejecting an application to rent the property solely based on the applicant’s disability. 
  • Charging a disabled person a pet fee, if they have a service animal.
  • Rejecting a renter because of having a service animal.
  • Refusing to make accommodations to the lease agreement for their disability.

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to ensure a disabled tenant renting your property can enjoy their rented space, just like any other tenant. To do this, you’re required by the state landlord-tenant laws to make certain reasonable accommodations and modifications.

north carolina housing rights

The following are some examples of reasonable accommodations and modifications to make in accordance with the North Carolina Fair Housing Law: 

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable Modifications

  • Allowing a live-in aid. 
  • Installing entrance ramps.
  • Allowing a tenant to move to a more accessible unit, for example, the first floor. 
  • Installing visual doorbells and fire alarms.
  • Assigning a parking space for a tenant having limited mobility. 
  • Install grab bars in the bathroom.
  • Allowing a tenant to keep a service animal, even if you don’t accept pets.
  • Installing a lift if you have a communal pool. 

What Can a Landlord Do to Avoid Fair Housing Law Violation Claims from Tenants?

The following are some tips to keep in mind when dealing with both prospective and existing tenants in North Carolina:

  • Advertise your rental property the right way. Avoid phrases or statements that show preference to a particular group of tenants. For instance, avoid stating any sort of discrimination such as “No Pets,” “Christian Home”, or “Ideal for a Single Professional.” 
  • Have a proper tenant screening process. Yes, you have the right to choose the kind of tenant that you want. However, you can’t subject applicants to discrimination in the process. Asking a tenant about whether they are married, for instance, would be discriminative. So would asking different questions to different applicants. 
  • Hire an experienced property management company. This is your best bet against all manner of legal issues. A great property manager understands the legal obligations of property owners, what they can do to avoid discrimination against tenants, as well as other property management laws. 

Bottom Line

There you have it, an overview of the state's Fair Housing Law. When renting out a property, landlords, property owners, real estate agents need to ensure that they remain compliant with the law to avoid discrimination claims. 

For expert help with North Carolina property management, KRS Property Management can help. Contact us to learn more about our housing management services or to speak with a property manager!

This content is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact a qualified attorney or property management firm for further questions.