New state law imposes fines on landlords discriminating against tenants receiving housing assistance
A new state law makes discrimination against voucher holders and recipients of other housing assistance programs illegal for many landlords in Hawai‘i.
Act 310, which became law on May 1, prohibits discrimination, including in advertisements for available real property, against prospective or current tenants based on participation in a Permanent Supportive Housing programs or any Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, the federal government’s program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.
The law applies mainly to landlords who own more than four rental properties with some exemptions allowed.
“This law is important because it prohibits landlords from turning away prospective tenants because they rely on housing subsidies. Ideally, it should make it easier for low-income individuals to secure housing. It also provides an enforcement mechanism that punishes landlords for advertising that they do not rent to folks with housing subsidies, hopefully curtailing that very common practice,” says Nicholas Severson, Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i’s Housing Managing Atorney.
The law aims to reduce source-of-income discrimination against people who use these types of rental assistance. It provides Section 8 participants with the same protections afforded to other classes under state and federal Fair Housing laws.
“Discrimination” prohibited under the law includes:
- Advertising a rental property as not accepting vouchers
- Refusing to engage in a rental transaction with someone based on their participation in a housing assistance program
- Requiring rental conditions that are different from those required for a person not participating in a housing assistance program
A fine up to $2,000 will be issued for initial violations. Each subsequent violation will net a landlord a $2,500 fine.
“When voucher holders are denied an opportunity to rent, it is a barrier to securing housing assistance,” said Michael Yee, Office of Housing and Community Development Existing Housing Division Manager. “This law is a needed step in the right direction and will help provide individuals and families greater access to affordable housing.”