Wyoming REALTORS® Help Pass State’s First Fair Housing Law
Thanks in large part to efforts by the Wyoming Association of REALTORS®, Wyoming’s first fair housing act will go into effect on July 1, 2015. Until recently, Wyoming was one of the few states without a fair housing law that prohibits discrimination in the rental, sale and financing of homes.
Without a state fair housing act, Wyoming homeowners, landlords and others involved in the home-sale or rental process were bound only by federal laws prohibiting housing discrimination. These laws, in theory, provided protections for prospective renters and homeowners, but the complaint process was slow and ineffective. Under the federal law, fair housing complaints from Wyoming were directed to the regional Housing and Urban Development office in Colorado. But there the relatively few complaints per year would get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, slowing the resolution of those complaints and frustrating both the parties filing complaints and the parties responding to them. For example, one complaint took two years and approximately $20,000 in legal costs before it was dismissed as having no basis.
For years, the Wyoming Association of REALTORS® had heard complaints about the existing system. These complaints came from the public, those responding to complaints, and from REALTORS®. In the Association’s successful push for passage of a Wyoming fair housing act it galvanized its membership, lobbied legislators, and helped draft the act’s language.
In all of its efforts, the Association focused on ensuring that the proposed fair housing act would be politically viable, since a similar bill had failed to pass a few years prior. One of the legislative and public concerns that threatened to prevent the act’s passage was that a fair housing act would unnecessarily add a new government agency and expenses to the state’s budget. REALTORS® developed a unique solution to this concern: the enforcement of the act will be conducted by either a state agency or by a nonprofit organization funded through HUD grants. This provision allows the act to be revenue neutral and gives flexibility in its enforcement.
The Wyoming Association of REALTORS® believes that everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, familial status, or other group membership, should have equal access to housing for sale and rent. The Wyoming fair housing legislation is an important first step that will help protect these rights and allow for quicker and more efficient resolution of fair housing claims.