SALT LAKE CITY- Nearly five decades after Congress passed a bill to prohibit discrimination, it seems the people of Utah, still don’t know much about fair housing law, and what some think they do know, reveals surprising attitudes. According to Dennis Romboy and KSL.com, a small percentage of people in Utah believe it’s OK to charge higher rent to people who don’t speak English. Some think a building owner can refuse to rent to someone based on religion, and others believe a homeowner has the right to sell to a white buyer only.
“Those types of comments are very discouraging to me,” said David Parker, a fair housing specialist in the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division.
Parker, and Utah State University social work professor Jess Lucero, headed the Fair Housing Snap Shot Research Project, a first-of-its-kind statewide study, of Utah’s’ knowledge and attitudes about the federal Fair Housing Act. Researchers surveyed 1,081 Utah residents in 22 counties.
Among the findings released:
- 16 % agree that a home seller has the right to sell to a white person only.
- 9 % believe a landlord should have the right to refuse to rent to a person based on religion.
- 3 % say a landlord can charge refugees higher rent if they don’t speak English.
The 47-year-old federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status or national origin. Utah has recently added sexual orientation, and gender identity to the list of protected classes into state law.
As part of the survey, Utah residents were asked eight true/false questions about fair housing law. The average score was 52%.
Of those surveyed, 14% reported having experienced housing discrimination. According to the study, the majority of the discrimination was based on religion, followed by marital status, single-parent households, and sexual orientation.
Interestingly, Lucero said, when respondents ranked which category was most in need of protection under the law, religion came in last, though it was the highest reported type of discrimination.
When a Utah resident is faced with discrimination in housing, only 18 % know how to report it. The state anti-discrimination and labor division receives about 75 to 80 housing complaints a year.
There were however, some encouraging results in the study. The survey showed 71% of residents know the intent of the fair housing law is to prevent discrimination.
Whether a landlord or a renter, knowing the Fair Housing Act laws are important for a positive renting experience. Once these laws are better understood, more educated decisions can be made in these situations.