Fair Housing Through the Years – State vs. County Line Park
In this episode, Cassie, Ali, and Danielle discuss the real estate case of State vs. County Line Park. This case is all about fair housing act violations, and how it has changed through the years.
In 1996, owners of a mobile home in Indiana denied a renter’s application due to having 4 children when they only allowed up to 2 children.
Obviously that was an issue for the people who wanted to become tenants, and they met with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and filed a complaint against the mobile home park. It went to the Indiana Supreme Court and they sided with the owners.
Then the case was taken back to court in 1999. Tune in to hear the result!
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ABOUT US -🎙 Agents Unfiltered SEASON 2 is about a deep dive into some wild real estate cases and give our take! Get ready for some relatable and relevant information about “The Do’s, the Don’ts & the What The Fuck’s of Real Estate.”
Hey everyone, and welcome to Agents Unfiltered, where we talk about the do’s, the don’ts, and the what the fucks of real estate. I’m Ali. This is Danielle. And I’m Cassie Day. Join the three of us every week as we deep dive into some wild real estate cases and give our take. We are not attorneys and want to make it clear that this podcast or any linked materials should not be construed as legal advice, nor is this information a substitute for professional expertise.
We are not lawyers, financial advisors, doctors, or mortgage lenders, but we are your new BFFs.
Danielle: Okay. Are we ready for a new case?
Ali: Does it involve a grave?
Danielle: No, it doesn’t, but it involves children.
Ali: Oh, that is a creepy connection.
Cassie: Danielle, you jumped right to children.
Danielle: Whenever my kids have friends over, sometimes I say things like if they want to know what my attic access is and ask what’s up there, I was like, oh, that’s where I hide all the bodies of children.
Ali: They looked at you like crazy.
Cassie: They are like ‘how do we leave’. You know those kids were like we’re never going home.
Danielle: I don’t even know what kids I said it in front of either, so who knows.
Cassie: Oh my.
Danielle: They made it out alive.
Cassie: They are going to be like ‘that’s the scary ladies house’ when they ride by on bikes.
Danielle: It’s like the movie Coraline.
Cassie: Oh my gosh. Get some buttons and just sew them into your eyes and say you are their other mother.
Cassie: Sorry. Do you hang out with us?
Ali: Danielle’s like, I’m gonna sew buttons into my eyes and keep children in my attic. Cassie’s like, do you wanna come on a fun picnic to the cemetery? No. Oh my gosh.
Cassie: We’re raising strange children.
Danielle: It’s okay. Unique. Strange.
Cassie: Well, you know what? Self-awareness is great. Yes, we are strange people.
Danielle: Oh my God. Okay, well this one has nothing to do with cemeteries and everything to do with fair housing. I thought this was an interesting one. This case is from 1999 and the case I pulled is actually the appeal, but this is the 1999 appeal of a 1996 case. In 1996 there was a couple, James Cain Sr. And Martha Cain, and they were renters and they were applying to rent a space in a mobile home. I know we don’t deal with rentals, but I thought this was interesting anyway because it deals with stuff that we could come across.
They filled out the application, it was the Cain’s (the couple), and then they had four children and I think they were like 16, 9, 6, and 2. Their application got denied. The park, County Line Park Inc, told them that the reason they were denied is because they had a policy prohibiting renting to families with more than two children. Obviously that was an issue for the people who wanted to become tenants, and they met with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and filed a complaint against the mobile home park. It went to the Indiana Supreme Court and basically what they decided…
Ali: Wait, can I pause you real quick? So is it a 55 plus community where like they typically don’t have kids there, or was it just your average home?
Danielle: This is an average home.
Cassie: Even at 55 plus communities, isn’t it like 80 or 85% or something of the community?
Danielle: Yes, I believe it’s like you can have 20% that are under the 55 plus. So how’d they get away with it? I’m not really sure why that works and other things don’t.
Cassie: Right. So interesting.
Danielle: Basically they went to court, and I was surprised by this outcome, but the court sided with the owners and said that they didn’t have to let them move in with their four children. What I found interesting about this case was Indiana has a specific way where they determine familial status. The reason they tossed the case out was because the court said that the tenants were not denied because they had kids, because they would’ve been able to live there with kids, it was how many kids they had.
Cassie: So it was an occupancy issue?
Danielle: That’s how they worded it. Basically, because additional sewer fees and whatnot. So that’s Indiana, but in the notes of this case, if this had been a federal case, if it had gone through federal court, chances are it would’ve turned out differently because of the way it was stated, like they couldn’t rent to their two additional children they couldn’t rent there. As opposed to You have too many occupants.
Cassie: Oh, cause they worded it based on the children, not the number of occupants.
Danielle: Yes. Then I went diving a little bit into one, how to avoid that issue, but also like the Fair Housing Act a little bit. The Fair Housing Act was from 1968 and it was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson during the MLK assassination riots, which I didn’t know was the timing of it, to be honest with you. I found that really interesting because I didn’t know that’s kind of what spurred things along a little more, which is not that long ago, which is wild.
Cassie: No, it’s really not.
Danielle: Also because of history and because we’re often on the wrong side of it.
Cassie: That is a fact.
Danielle: The National Association of Realtors at the time totally opposed the Civil Rights Act. I felt like I needed to mention that in this because it’s shocking to me now.
Cassie: But at the time I’m sure it was like why would we approve this?
Danielle: The Fair Housing Act came to be, so there wasn’t much they could do about that, however, at the time, the National Association of Realtors allowed local associations to continue to enforce their own rules with their membership for their members for realtors and they let them discriminate based on race and sex.
Ali: That’s crazy.
Cassie: Until when?
Danielle: I don’t know. I think over time, just every state is a little different, but that was the national association, which to me makes sense why the industry is like this.
Cassie: But it’s not still like that now.
Danielle: No, no, because, because there would be lawsuits all the time. If you think about the history of it, like when I got into the business, it was very much a male dominated business.
Cassie: Oh, for sure.
Danielle: That has obviously shifted, even in a little bit less than 20 years that shifted, but I just thought that was really interesting because I was like, man none of it was all that long ago anyways. I thought that was interesting. But then also in digging into this, with Indiana, they had their own definition of familial status, so I was curious. I wasn’t gonna pull all 50 states.
Ali: Wait, what state is this?
Ali: Oh, I thought it was Alabama. It was probably like your cousins and your brothers cousins.
Cassie: So what is the verbiage that they had that allowed for this?
Danielle: Yeah. So basically the, the way Indiana distinguishes familial status is one or more individuals who have not attained the age of 18 being domiciled with a parent, which basically is like attached to like, needs a parent. A parent has to take care of them, essentially. The other thing that came out of this was they were comparing other cases of like, okay, well say you could have four occupants, right? Could it be like four adults?
Cassie: Children are smaller and may create like less, do they count as like half an adult?
Danielle: I mean, that’s the thing, like that’s why the verbiage is so weird and that’s why Fair Housing overall has very clear defined things and I feel like each state has their own, which really kind of muddies the water, but so then I was like, well, I’m gonna look into the states, around us. Washington is pretty much the same as the federal government. Idaho, they everything, so race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, but they do not acknowledge familial status as a discrimination.
Cassie: Interesting. You’d think that they would, because Idaho is like the home of the people who are LDS.
Danielle: Really? I didn’t know that.
Cassie: It’s like Mormon central.
Ali: Idaho? Well, I guess it touches Utah, so maybe it’s southern Idaho.
Cassie: I feel like there are so many LDS people in Idaho and family is everything to them. They are all about community.
Danielle: I don’t know why it is not included.
Cassie: Interesting, I wouldn’t have expected that to be what they didn’t include…
Danielle: I know. I didn’t either, but Oregon on the flip side, just to round things out, includes also, sexual orientation, source of income, and marital status and physical or mental disability, like they expand upon that. For Income, I was thinking this through… Why would a landlord want to include this and maybe if you were an exotic dancer or in prostitution.
Ali: That’s what I was thinking because if you’re in prostitution or something like that, like that’s not necessarily a source of income because like usually you have to provide a taxable income.
Danielle: If you did work as an exotic dancer, or I was thinking like marijuana farming.
Cassie: Oh totally.
Danielle: I don’t know where that came from. I probably should have researched that a little bit.
Cassie: or even if you worked at a marijuana dispensary.
Danielle: Or, the other thing I thought of is maybe like unemployment income, because like that is an income.
Ali: or like a disability income.
Danielle: I feel like that would filter into the disability, but I don’t know. I just thought that it was really interesting that they added that on.
Cassie: Well and adding that on is probably because something happened in regards to it, so then they decided to just include it. I’d be curious what brought that one in, but it’s interesting that each state has differences within their own parameters. You think it would just be like federally the same.
Danielle: So a good way to not have this become an issue, if you’re dealing with occupancy, is that you have to base it on occupancy code.
Cassie: So if you had a place that was max occupancy of four people, then you would make sure to word it like that and not, well, you have two additional children.
Danielle: But also like the occupancy has to be based on building codes. You can’t just pull out occupancy codes.
Cassie: No, you have to have actual backing behind them, like the sewer can only handle up to a few people.
Danielle: When I looked up, because we ran into this with one of our other agents who was like there’s no way this is an actual bedroom, what’s the minimum square footage in the bedrooms, questions like that, I looked it up and at least in Washington it’s 50 square feet.
Ali: A bedroom?
Danielle: Isn’t that wild? So, and like, at least that’s the occupancy, like limits. And so I was like, that’s really interesting though because if you think of like, you have a four bedroom house, if you have 10 by 10 bedrooms, you could have two occupants per bedroom, so I think it’s a fine line. Obviously we don’t deal with rentals in our office, but I thought it was really interesting because there’s so many ways that you could discriminate. Not even intentionally discriminate. I don’t necessarily think the park was intentionally like, you have kids, you can’t be here.
Cassie: It was just the number of people, but the way that they worded it got them in trouble. Which Indiana allowed for them to, but in another state it would probably would’ve gone
Danielle: And then who regulates fair housing is basically a division of HUD. I don’t know don’t know if we talked about this before or not, but I remember back in the day everyone used to say April is Fair Housing Month, which is part of why I picked this. They used to say like, if you’re gonna get shocked from Fair Housing, it’s probably gonna be in April. I remember getting this call one time, it was not in April, but this lady was asking me what are good neighborhoods, and I was like, you know, I don’t really know neighborhoods change all the time, but I’m happy to send you a link. Cause I was like, I’m not answering this question. She pushed me further and I was like, you know, I can’t answer that, but I would love to send you this link, and she got so mad and said I don’t want to deal with an agent who’s politically correct and blah, blah, blah. I was like, I don’t wanna deal with you if that’s your response to me trying to give you a place where you can look up information. I didn’t know if I was being shopped or not, but I thought there is no way I am stepping into this.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been shocked, but they used to. I don’t know how they changed that.
Cassie: Trying to catch you in a fair housing violation.
Danielle: Oftentimes they’d be like in open houses, where they would come in and ask around and ask information and just kinda see.
Cassie: What would be like a question they would ask?
Danielle: I mean, they could ask anything. It would probably be, for the most part, I think most of the questions they’d ask everyone would be like, why are you asking that. What’s wrong with you?
Ali: Right in my head, I’m like, obviously you can’t say stuff, but can you give a personal opinion? Like, I really like Kendall Yards because there’s tons of restaurants and shops.
Danielle: Yeah, because that’s not based on anything housing. You can 100% say like this neighborhood is close to all sorts of things, but if you say, oh, this is a family friendly neighborhood or even like, it’s a dangerous place to live, or even like obviously ads is a huge place where fair housing stuff comes up, but like, you could say perfect for a single person.
Cassie: Or like one thing that I didn’t think about in listings that you like corrected me on when I was getting ready to put a listing out was walking distance. Like that the house was walking distance because if you’re disabled.
Danielle: I think it’s just better to err on the side of caution. You know, and it’s not all about being politically correct or whatever. It’s just that, it makes sense for everybody involved. You don’t wanna alienate anyone, and as representing a seller, the worst thing you can do is have an ad that alienates somebody because you’re really doing a disservice to your sellers, because our goal is to get it out to as many people as possible. So if you put something in the ad, like, perfect for retirees. Obviously if it’s a 55 plus neighborhood, and that’s like, that’s different. You have to advertise it’s a 55 plus, but if it’s like it’s a one level home, great for retirees or great for elderly people, that’s not a good ad.
Cassie: I’ve seen ads go out that are like the perfect home to grow your family, and I’m like, oh, cringe every time.
Danielle: I know the fines depend on how severe, but Fair Housing fines are no joke. Like you’re talking up to like $250,000 a violation.
Ali: That’s crazy.
Danielle: They don’t mess around, and I think it’s because probably my guess would be that when they first got enacted, you had all these places like National Association of Realtors, like kind of rebuffing it and then they have to get really strict there. And to be fair, just to add this tidbit in, just because that was past 30 years ago does not mean it does not still happen.
Cassie: Oh, absolutely.
Danielle: There’s definitely a clear line in all sorts of things and redlining and whatnot, but it was a step in the right direction. They’ve gotten really intense with their fines, which I think is good. It kind of goes into our whole AI discussion one episode ago. Gotta be careful what you say. I know.
Cassie: Ugh, my life.
Danielle: Oh man, that’s it for this week.
Cassie: That was good. See you next time. Bye.