Wyoming REALTORS® Help Pass State’s First Fair-Housing Law
For the first time, Wyoming will have a law prohibiting discrimination in the rental, sale and financing of homes when the state’s new Fair Housing Act goes into effect on July 1, 2015. The new law was enacted thanks in large part to the efforts of the Wyoming Association of REALTORS®.
Without a fair-housing law, Wyoming homeowners, landlords and others involved in the home-sale or rental process were bound only by federal laws prohibiting housing discrimination. These laws provided protections for prospective renters and homeowners, in practice, 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. Wyoming’s relatively few complaints per year often got lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, which slowed the resolution of those complaints and frustrated 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.
The Wyoming Association of REALTORS® had heard complaints for years about the existing system from the general public, people responding to complaints, and REALTORS®. The Association decided to act and began its successful push for the passage of a Wyoming Fair Housing Act. It galvanized its membership, lobbied legislators, and helped draft the Act’s language.
The Association focused on making the proposed Fair Housing Act politically viable, as 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 it would unnecessarily add a new government agency and expenses to the state’s budget. REALTORS® developed a unique solution in response to this concern: Enforcement of the act will be conducted by either a state agency or a nonprofit agency 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 or 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.