Hoarders are now a protected class in Virginia Fair Housing Laws
By Mike Cooper April 17, 2014 10:40 AM
Virginia Realtors, there is a new group being added to your Fair Housing list of discrimination candidates. No one should be discriminated against when it comes to housing. The list has grown since the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibited racial discrimination.
In 1968, the Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act added color, religion, or national origin. In 1974, the Housing and Community Development Act added sex to the list, and in 1988 the Fair Housing Amendments Act added disability and familial status (or households with children).
Today, these lists are now known as the Fair Housing Act which includes, race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. There is also a prohibition against people who are associated with people in protected classes.
The one portion of the Fair Housing Act that has the potential to expand the list even further is the section on disabilities. Unless you carry a DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in your car you may not know if a disability is covered under the Fair Housing Act.In May of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) listed compulsive hoarding to it's list of mental disorders, making it a disability. They defined it this way, "Compulsive Hoarding is a type of mental disability and persons with mental disabilities or mental handicaps are a protected class."
In Virginia, our list of fair housing protected classes adds "or handicap" to the list. A mental disability is a mental handicap. If you're a landlord in Virginia and your client turns out to be a hoarder, you will be responsible to treat him/her as a protected class. A resident may have a fair housing claim against a landlord if . . .
* He has a disability (which the DSM 5 now recognizes)
* The landlord knew or should have known of the disability;
* An accommodation is necessary to afford the resident with the disability equal use and enjoyment of the unit;
* The resident requested an accommodation; and
* The landlord refused to grant the request.
A mental disorder does not have to be diagnosed to be claim worthy. If a resident "might" be perceived as having a handicap or mental disorder (however you frame it), it can trigger a Fair Housing discrimination complaint. Just collecting SSI or SSDI benefits can be enough to meet the definition of a disability.
Let all agents beware that you must now treat a hoarder as a protected class because of the new APA definition of "compulsive hoarding" that is becoming recognized by states throughout the country. You can't back a truck up to your rental property and drag all of the hoarded belongings off to the dump without following Federal and State guidelines for protected classes.
Educate yourself in your state before you are faced with a hoarding situation. A hoarder can destroy the substance of a home in a short time. Now that they are becoming a protected class, Realtors and property managers must become prepared to follow the same guidelines for them as they would for any of the other protected classes.http://activerain.trulia.com/blogsview/4375649/hoarders-are-now-a-protected-class-in-virginia-fair-housing-laws