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. ūüôā

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.¬† ūüôā

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 ‚ÄúX‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs important to know that fair housing protections apply to everyone in the US, regardless of immigration status (for more on this read FHCO‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúnational origin‚ÄĚ 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?¬† ‚ÄėInterested 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 ‚ÄúView Local Protected Classes‚ÄĚ 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¬ģ Rally at the Capitol 2015

¬†REALTOR¬ģ RALLY at the CAPITOL

Wednesday, APRIL 8, 2015

FREE! Includes:

1.5 hours of CE credit & lunch!

10:00 a.m. Р4:00 p.m.      Registration begins at 9:00 a.m.MISSION MILL Spinning Room

 

1313 Mill Street SE

        Salem, OR 97301            

 

 

Join over 500 of your colleagues from around the State on the Capitol grounds in Salem to stand up for real estate industry issues for yourself AND your clients. Hear presentations on OAR’s legislative agenda and then meet and mingle with your legislators during a BBQ lunch and small group appointments. Let’s have a real show of force by getting as many REALTORS¬ģ to participate as possible!

 

REGISTER ONLINE:www.oregonrealtors.org/rally

 

 

The first 60 SAR members that RSVP to the May General Membership Meeting, showing their Realtor¬ģ Rally name badge (proof of attendance), will not be charged for the May meeting!

 

Complimentary Shuttles will be available between Mission Mill and the Oregon State Capitol. 
9:00 Р10:00 amRegistration 10:00 Р10:30 am

Welcoming Remarks & 2015/16 Legislative Highlights

Oregon’s top political consultants and legislative leadership will share an insider’s perspective and highlight key issues for the 2015 Legislative Session.

10:30 – 11:30 am

Legislative Issues Briefing

How will Key legislative issues impact Oregon’s housing market? Take time to learn the top legislative opportunities and threats to help strengthen and protect the dream of homeownership.

11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Capitol BBQ Lunch

Join your colleagues and members of the 78th Oregon Legislative Assembly for a complimentary barbecue lunch at the Oregon State Capitol.

1:00 – 4:00 pm

Constituent Meetings with Legislators

Share your expertise on the local housing market. This is your opportunity to show your commitment to preserving housing opportunities in your community.

Fair Housing Enforcement: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know

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

When I’m out in the field teaching fair housing classes I’m often asked what the consequences of a fair housing violation is.  Following is a primer on the subject.  You can get a visual perspective on the process by viewing our Enforcement Flow Chart at www.FHCO.org/pdfs/EnfFlowChart.pdf but following is a more detailed outline.

The federal Fair Housing Act makes any denial of or differential treatment in housing based on the following protected classes illegal:  race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children) and disability.  Oregon law also prohibits discrimination based on marital status, (legal) source of income (including, now Section 8 and other housing subsidies), and sexual orientation and gender identity.  (Visit FHCO.org for further information on the area you live or own properties.)

It should be noted that one need not intend to discriminate for their words, actions, or advertising to have an illegally discriminatory affect.  That is, affect not intention is the barometer in a fair housing case.

 How is the Fair Housing Act Enforced?

Often the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) is the first line of defense. We receive fair housing-related inquiries and complaints from across the state.  Each call is processed and assistance provided whenever and wherever possible.  We offer information and referral to appropriate resources if an inquiry is not related to fair housing.

As a private nonprofit, we serve as a fair housing resource in Oregon but we are not an enforcement agency, per se.  If an inquiry appears to be a bona fide allegation of fair housing discrimination, we assist in whatever way the inquirer desires.  We might help mediate the issue or contact the housing provider to advocate on the individual’s behalf; we may help the victim file a formal complaint or conduct an investigation using witness interviews, testing, etc.

Testing is a nationally recognized and court-tested practice aimed at identifying whether or not illegal housing discrimination has occurred. Both complaint-based and audit testing is done by FHCO.  Testing is used to identify ordinary the business practices (of a company, an individual, etc.) and whether or not these practices constitute a violation of the laws.

Other enforcement-related activities may involve filing a complaint with a regulatory agency; either on our own behalf or in assisting a housing consumer who claims a fair housing violation has been committed against them.  At times, we also file lawsuits with private attorneys.  That said, more than 75% of the bona fide fair housing complaints we receive annually are resolved informally and never make it to the formal complaint process.

 What Happens After a Complaint or Lawsuit is Filed?

Fair housing complaints can be filed with the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or a state agency such as the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) in Oregon.  A complainant has up to one year from the date of the last alleged incident of illegal discrimination to file a claim.  Alternatively, one may file a suit in court up to two years after the last incident.

If filed with a government agency, that office (HUD or BOLI) will initiate an investigation to determine if there is evidence of illegal discrimination or will attempt to conciliate the complaint with the parties involved.¬† If conciliation fails, the agency will move to determine whether or not ‚Äúreasonable cause‚ÄĚ exists to believe that fair housing laws have been violated.

If the government agency finds ‚Äúno reasonable cause,‚ÄĚ the complaint is dismissed.¬† However, if evidence of a violation is found, a hearing will be scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).¬† If either party elects to proceed with the case in federal court, then either the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) or the state attorney general will represent the case on behalf of the regulatory body.¬† The decisions of the ALJ or the federal district court are subject to review by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

If the complainant prevails in the case, s/he may be awarded compensatory damages.  These can include any out-of-pocket costs the complainant spent while obtaining alternative housing and any additional costs, including rent, associated with that housing.  Emotional distress damages for such things as humiliation, mental anguish or other psychological injuries may be levied and are in addition to out-of-pocket losses.

In cases tried before an ALJ, a civil penalty of up to $16,000 may be imposed for a first violation up to $65,000 for a third violation.  If the case is brought by the DOJ, civil penalties can be as high as $100,000.

When heard in federal court, punitive damages may be awarded.¬† These do not reimburse the plaintiff for losses actually suffered; instead, they punish the wrongdoer.¬† Punitive damages are awarded only if the plaintiff shows the defendant‚Äôs conduct was ‚Äúwillful, wanton, or malicious‚ÄĚ specifically motivated by an intent to exclude the plaintiff for illegally discriminatory reasons.

Attorney’s fees may be awarded to the prevailing party.  In addition, courts may issue injunctions if they feel prompt action is necessary to prevent immediate and irreparable harm.

In cases involving illegal discrimination in home mortgage loans or home improvement loans, a suit may be filed under both the Fair Housing Act and / or the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.  In this case, additional agencies may be involved.

If you have questions about fair housing law, please consider us a resource and let us know!  You may want to start on our website where we have not only the Enforcement Flow Chart posted but also an entire page with tons of resource documents and links just for housing providers like yourself.  You can find these resources at http://fhco.org/hs_provider_info.htm.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a civil rights organization.  All rights reserved © 2014. 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?¬† ‚ÄėInterested 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