April is Fair Housing Month 2014: Learn about your rights

This week marks the middle of Fair Housing Month, but Joseph Cvelbar wants you to know your rights are protected year-round.

Cvelbar is Consolidated Credit’s Housing Director, and he oversees a staff of HUD-certified counselors who are experts in the Fair Housing Act, which protects Americans from being denied the right to buy a house or rent an apartment due to…

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Family status
  • Gender

Cvelbar and other experts talk about the Fair Housing Act in the video below – and how it can directly affect you. Then learn even more…

“We help borrowers and renters understand what their rights are – and understand what the law says can or can’t be done,” Cvelbar says. That’s not always easy to figure out, because some states and even cities have enacted their own tougher versions of the federal Fair Housing Act.

“In Vermont, you’re not permitted to specifically advertise against certain groups,” Cvelbar says. “For example, you’re not allowed to state, ‘No gays allowed.’ That doesn’t exist under federal law.”

That’s right, the federal law doesn’t prevent the LGBT community from being denied housing. Cvelbar, who’s been in the housing counseling business for more than two decades, believes that will change. He’s seen a lot of changes – in fact, the original Fair Housing Act of 1968 didn’t protect against those with disabilities. Now it does.

Cvelbar says the law has changed how people discriminate. He says his biggest challenge is helping people figure out if they’ve actually been discriminated against – because these days, discrimination is “subtle” rather than “blatant.”

Meanwhile, Rita Scott’s biggest challenge is tackling discrimination from the other side: the “housing providers” who probably don’t even know they’re breaking the law. Scott works at H.O.P.E., which stands for Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence. She’s the education and outreach coordinator in Broward County, Florida.

“We really need to reach housing providers more, to make sure they aren’t breaking the law,” Scott says. “We have a lot of homeowners associations that are operating under their own policies, and some of those might infringe upon the Fair Housing Act. So educating them that the Fair Housing Act supersedes anything they have is our biggest challenge.”

Next Wednesday: Hear how five women challenged their own discrimination and won damages.


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