US Supreme Court Rules on Fair Housing Issue

supreme courtIn a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled yesterday (6/25/15) that disparate impact claims are allowed under the Fair Housing laws. Although most federal appellate courts had previously come to the same decision–including the one that oversees Alabama federal courts–there had been no SCOTUS decision. Now there is.

The case arose out of a Texas housing authority practice of awarding low income housing tax credits to build affordable housing in predominantly Black inner-city neighborhoods, rather than largely white suburbs.  There was nothing explicitly discriminatory in the actions, but it had the effect (the “disparate impact”) of denying suburban housing to a protected class.

On a smaller scale, we can probably expect to see disparate impact claims for

  • apartment communities that do not provide secure and enclosed play areas for children (familial status)
  • landlords who require that tenant applicants hold full-time jobs (disability, among others)
  • prohibition against putting signs on doors, which could affect observant Jews who wish to post a mezuzah (religion)

You should probably review your policies and amenities to see if you might be vulnerable to a disparate impact claim.