Oregon Real Estate Agency’s New (Updated) Site

It’s new and improved, they say. I haven’t had a chance to do much there (since I don’t need to renew, open a new office, or register a team) but I did do a Licensee Search, and it worked great – pretty much identically to before. 🙂

The site address is the same:  www.oregon.gov/rea and they’ve put out a video explaining the change. Check it out and happy eLicensing.  🙂

FAA Rules in Favor of Photo-by-Drone

New rules make it easier to get those great shots with your unmanned remote-control aircraft. Below are a few of the rules. Read more here.

  • Must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)
  • Must fly under 400 feet,
  • Must flyer during the day
  • Must fly at or below 100 mph
  • Must yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Must NOT fly over people
  • Must NOT fly from a moving vehicle

Credit Screening from a Fair Housing Perspective

Credit Screening
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Guest Blogger:  Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

It is a common practice for housing providers to screen applicants based on credit score and credit history. From a fair housing perspective, providers can decide how to set their credit criteria as long as they apply it consistently regardless of the protected class status of the applicant.

Recently, I receive a call from a landlord who wanted to know how he could apply an exception to the FICO score requirement he has without running afoul of fair housing laws. He wanted to make an exception if a low credit rating is tied to high medical bills2.  This is a generous (and, frankly, realistic) consideration, given that the number one cause of bankruptcies in this country are due to unpaid medical bills, outpacing those caused by credit-card bills or unpaid mortgages, according to an CNBC article (http://www.cnbc.com/id/100840148).  Reportedly, having health insurance doesn’t buffer many from such financial hardship.

If housing providers decide to have exceptions to their screening criteria, the policy includes an explanation of when exceptions would be made.  A common exception is for applicants with screening barriers who have completed an approved tenant education program such as Rent Well, Second Chance, or Moving Forward.  So the gentleman who called me may require a FICO score of “X” as a general rule, but he could have a policy explaining he would make an exception if there is documentation to verify the lower score was caused by medical bills2. Of course, he would need to make that exception consistently, regardless of protected class.

One area of screening that is confusing to some housing providers is how to screen an applicant without a Social Security number.  First of all, it’s important to know that fair housing protections apply to everyone in the US, regardless of immigration status (for more on this read FHCO’s previous article on the matter at http://www.fhco.org/news/read-on?view=category&id=81).  A policy requiring Social Security numbers in all cases probably has a disparate impact on immigrants and falls under the “national origin” protected class under fair housing law.

You should know that a Social Security number isn’t the only way that credit bureaus identify us. The bureaus use personal information including full name, date of birth, and addresses, to compile individual credit reports. While, in some cases, having a Social Security number may increase the accuracy of the bureau’s matching process, it is not necessarily essential in running a credit check.

FHCO participated in a work group convened by the Credit Builders Alliance due to growing concerns from both housing providers and consumers about credit screening issues.  One of the products that came out of this work group is a Tip Sheet on Building Credit Without a Social Security number which can be found at the Alliance’s website at http://creditbuildersalliance.org/sites/default/files/Building%20Credit%20without%20a%20SSN.pdf. The Tip Sheet addresses issues of concern to both housing consumers and providers, including using consistent information when interacting with credit bureaus and properly transferring credit history to a new Social Security number.  It contains a list of best practices for consumers and businesses, as well as explaining the use of other identifying numbers, such as the ITIN, and how they can be used to pull a credit report?

Do take a close look at the Tip Sheet on the Credit Builders Alliance site and remember, too, that FHCO offers a list of suggested alternative documents that can be used to verify identity, bill payment history, and other relevant screening criteria. The list has been recently updated and is posted at http://www.fhco.org/discrimination-in-oregon/protected-classes/national-origin/alternative-suggested-documents.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a civil rights organization.  All rights reserved © 2015. Write jbecker@FHCO.org to reprint articles or inquire about ongoing content for your own publication.

To learn more…  Learn more about fair housing and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at www.FHCO.org.

Qs about this article?  ‘Interested in articles for your company or trade association?  Contact Jo Becker at jbecker@FHCO.org or 800/424-3247 Ext. 150

Want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?  Visit www.FHCO.org/learning-resources/trainings to learn about the trainings we offer for companies and groups.

[1] Federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include:  race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children), and disability.  Oregon law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors.  Additional protected classes have been added in particular geographic areas; visit FHCO.org/mission.htm and read the section entitled “View Local Protected Classes” for more information.

2  This example was this particular landlord’s preference to offer; however, this is one example of a reasonable accommodation request an individual with a disability might request of any housing provider.  Regardless of screening criteria, all housing providers are always required to consider reasonable accommodation and modifications requests.  To learn how reasonableness is determined and learn more about disability-related protections visit http://www.fhco.org/learning-resources/downloads/category/3-guides?download=193:resource-guide-2015.

REALTOR® Call for Action, Nov 2015

Guest Blogger:  Evan Ridley, Political Advocacy Manager
Oregon Association of REALTORS®
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I wanted to share some exciting news with you:  As of today, we are just 300 members shy of the NAR national CFA (“Call-for-Action”) response rate goal of 20% heading into the NAR Conference next week in San Diego.  This would be a historic milestone and we are asking for your help to promote CFA participation at your local association.

As a result of your efforts and those of your colleagues around the state and country, the House voted this week to strip an increase in the fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the transportation bill. While this is a significant victory, the fight is not over. The bill will now go to a House-Senate Conference, so we must keep the pressure on. Please urge your colleagues to Take Action today.

I have listed a few helpful tools to send supportive messages to promote the CFA to your members.  As a reminder, NAR CFAs are an excellent opportunity for you to meet Core Standards advocacy requirements.

I have attached a breakout of each local association’s progress as of this morning which includes average working emails, CFA participations, participation rate, and number of members needed to achieve 20% at your local level. If you would like a list of folks in your association who have not yet taken action, I am happy to provide that to you as well so you can email them directly!

Thanks for you hard work in helping us tell Congress that taking money from future homeowners is the WRONG WAY TO PAY for highways!

Section 8’s New Era

Section 8 protection:  Oregon enters a new era in housing opportunity
By Guest Blogger:  Elizabeth Gray, FHCO Intake Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

It’s been several months since Oregon fair housing law1 was amended to protect housing consumers from discrimination based on Section 8 voucher or other rental assistance income (House Bill 2639 and statute at ORS 659A.421).

Source of income has long been protected in Oregon.  However, when the state legislation was passed, Section 8 vouchers were specifically lobbied out as an exception.  With this exception removed, effective July 1st, 1014, all legally obtained sources of income are protected across the state.

In practical terms, this means that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an applicant, or treat an applicant or tenant differently, because the applicant is using a Section 8 voucher or other form of rental housing assistance.  Nor can landlords advertise “no Section 8” or “No HUD”.

In the words of Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), the expanded protection “‘creates that door of opportunity’ for voucher-holders to apply for housing close to work, kids’ schools and in thriving neighborhoods”. (Oregonian, July 8th, 2013)

Our office has kept very busy over the past many months providing technical assistance to housing providers regarding the law’s implementation as well as advocating for consumers who have encountered resistance to their use of Section 8 vouchers and other rental subsidies.

As a snapshot, we have:

  • Sent informational letters to landlords that have posted “No Section 8” ads on Craigslist
  • Advocated for tenants having issues leasing up with a new landlord, or current landlords that do not want to accept the voucher when a current tenant receives one
  • Tested properties brought to our attention by complainants

How to Calculate 2-3x The Rent

Over these past months, one question that’s been raised by both landlords and tenants is how to calculate whether or not a prospective renter qualifies for the rental based on their income. The position that our office is taking is that the landlord should only consider the amount that the tenant actually pays, not the full advertised rent.

For example, consider if a stated rent amount is 1200 and the landlord requires a renter to have 3 times the rent in income. A non-Section 8 tenant could be required to show income of 3600 dollars per month, but if a Section 8 (or other subsidy) tenant would pay 300 dollars in rent and the local housing authority would pay 900, then the tenant should only be required to show income of 900 dollars per month.

You can find a more detailed discussion of this issue (and many others) in Question 7 of the Frequently Asked Questions referenced below, a wonderful resource for both housing providers and consumers that was compiled by attorney and FHCO board member John van Landingham of the Lane County Law and Advocacy Center.  The document is comprehensive and evolving, and created in partnership with landlord trade groups, other legal aid offices and colleagues, as well as representatives from housing authorities around the state.  View the full PDF at www.FHCO.org/pdfs/Section%208%20Source%20of%20Income%20FAQ%20clean%20copy%2010262014.pdf

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a civil rights organization.  All rights reserved © 2015. Write jbecker@FHCO.org to reprint articles or inquire about ongoing content for your own publication.

To learn more…  Learn more about fair housing and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at www.FHCO.org.

Qs about this article?  ‘Interested in articles for your company or trade association?  Contact Jo Becker at jbecker@FHCO.org or 800/424-3247 Ext. 150

Want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?  Visit www.FHCO.org/learning-resources/trainings to learn about the trainings we offer for companies and groups.

[1] Federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include:  race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children), and disability.  Oregon law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors.  Additional protected classes have been added in particular geographic areas; visit FHCO.org/mission.htm and read the section entitled “View Local Protected Classes” for more information.

 

Angie’s List & the Lead Paint Discussion

Angie’s list shops the market; finds lead-paint misinformation & violations

By Guest blogger:
Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

Last fall angieslist.com published a very interesting article for their subscribers entitled “LEAD:  Still Lurking.”  This month I’d like to share some salient points from that article with you.

What follows is portions of the Angie’s List article by Paul Pogue with additional reporting by Kaley Belakovich, Oseye Boyd, James Figy, Staci Giordullo, Garrett Kelly, Lacey Nix, Michael Schroeder, Stephanie Snay, and Cynthia Wilson.

Angie’s List takes lead paint seriously.  That’s why they decided to conduct a “secret shopper” program this year to test contractors and hardware stores about their knowledge of lead safety.

It’s been four years since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented its Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP).  Did awareness about the dangers of lead increase?  Maybe.  Are contractors passing along good advice about lead safety?  Not always.

While interviewing candidates for the project, the last thing a consumer expects to hear is: “It’s just a bunch of B.S., really.”  However, that’s exactly what one contractor told one of Angie’s List reporters.

Angie’s List contacted 150 randomly selected painters, remodelers and window contractors, and 50 hardware stores, in 10 major cities telling them a 2-year-old child’s room in a 1920s house was being renovated.  What, they asked, were the proper methods to strip paint or replace windows?  Nearly 11% of those contractors, and 47% of hardware stores, gave poor advice.  Here are a few examples:

  • “Lead only harms you if you eat it.”
  • “Just close the door, wear a mask.
  • “You might just be able to throw [lead paint debris] in the trash.”
  • “The whole lead thing is very overblown unless your kids are chewing or gnawing on the windowsills.”

While lead-safety awareness has increased, homeowners can’t rely on contractors and their local hardware store to know their stuff where lead paint is concerned.  Your best defense?  Arm yourself with information.

Sadly, Angie’s List staff found that a significant number of those renovation contractors — nearly 11 percent — offered consumers bad advice when it comes to lead safety. But even more disconcerting, nearly 32 percent of those contractors told us they did not have the required EPA lead-safety certification.

Every lead-painted surface contains invisible poison, easily unleashed by scraping, sanding, or melting the surface – all common techniques in renovations.  Lawmakers banned lead-based paint in 1978 but contractors working in older properties operated with very little regulation until the EPA instituted the RRP Rule in 2010.

Nationwide, about 40 percent of the housing stock remains at risk for lead paint, according to the EPA. Angie’s List estimates that number may be higher for its members as 46 percent of them report living in a pre-1978 home.

According Wendy Cleland-Hamnett, director of the EPA’s office of pollution prevention and toxics, “Our certified firms mentioned that they sometimes have to compete with firms underbidding jobs because that firm is uncertified and is willing to work without lead-safe work practices,” she says. “Those firms may be skirting other requirements as well.”

In the past year, Cleland-Hamnett says the EPA stepped up its enforcement efforts against noncompliant firms or individuals.

Going an additional step further to protect their members, Angie’s List excludes any contractor who performs this type of work and fails to provide proof of EPA certification from this service category and keyword searches.  In addition, the site includes a notice on the company’s profile to alert their members of the issue.

“Correct practices are very easy to spot,” according to Ron Peik, owner of a highly rated lead-paint remediation company in Mass. “You should be seeing lots of plastic being set up to contain the area, literally taped down so air doesn’t get in, and windows, ducts and doorways sealed off. Homeowners really should insist on looking at the containment before actual work is executed.”

The most important thing owners of pre-1978 homes can do is hire certified contractors on jobs that disturb lead paint, and verify that the contractor follows the law.

Angie’s List also offers a Lead-Safe Practices Checklist to protect yourself and your property.  You can find it at www.angieslist.com/articles/lead-safe-practices-checklist.htm and additional resources at www.angieslist.com/articles/lead-paint-safety-what-you-need-know.htm.

For help with your own, specific lead questions, call the free Leadline at 503/988-4000.

A reminder that although lead poisoning is especially dangerous for kids, the fear of lead poisoning or liability does not give housing providers the right to deny or discourage families with children away from pre-1978 using.  Familial status is a protected class under federal fair housing law[1] and doing anything to deny or discourage otherwise qualified families is illegal.  Visit www.FHCO.org for more information on this topic.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a civil rights organization.  All rights reserved © 2015. Write jbecker@FHCO.org to reprint articles or inquire about ongoing content for your own publication.

To learn more…  Learn more about fair housing and / or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at www.FHCO.org.

Qs about this article?  ‘Interested in articles for your company or trade association?  Contact Jo Becker at jbecker@FHCO.org or 800/424-3247 Ext. 150

Want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?  Visit www.FHCO.org/pdfs/classlist.pdf

[1]   Federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include:  race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children), and disability.  Oregon law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors.  Additional protected classes have been added in particular geographic areas; visit www.FHCO.org for more information.