jseah wrote:Could someone explain to a non-American what the rationale is behind these two... whatever you call them. Laws?
I got pointed to these elsewhere and read their Wikipedia pages. This is how I understood them:
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from rejecting tenants based on non-business criteria (which means credit history and criminal record).
Disparate Impact prohibits hiring practices that are not just discriminatory (which come under Disparate Treatment), but somehow or other result in different hiring rates for protected groups even if that was not the intention.
Both are very much tied to the idea that different people should not be treated differently but places the burden on the provider of the service/employment to prove that they are not (even accidentally) discriminating against a protected class.
While most friction was satisfactorily resolved, I don't think either of us would want to do that again. And to imagine a housing situation where a Chinese landlord, say, was forced to take in a malay tenant, and neither side was as willing to accommodate each other as we were during training, I can foresee the tenancy being very shortlived.[/spoiler]
Simply put, I don't understand the cultural background that explains these two laws, and when transplanted to my own experience, they appear absolutely ridiculous and unworkable (not to mention unenforceable).
You seem to move between two topics here, at least to the way my mind affords the criteria mentioned boxes, to the extent that it does.
The first is that landlords should be prohibited from discriminating on credit and criminal history. I believe this should be so. Only in cases, perhaps, where the landlord is not live-in; in the UK we have different laws on that, but not sure about the US. Landlording is a potentially extremely lucrative business which has the potential to be essentially "resource camping" rather than real and useful work in any sense of the phrase. The landlord generally has to do very little in return for the amount they make, and generally speaking the only barrier to entry into this profession is to have enough money to buy a second house or flat, and the very basic business acumen to assess the cost of a mortgage against the cost of rent. For this the landlord not only often makes a tidy profit, but will likely afford themselves a property into the bargain, which someone else's money has paid for.
Thus I think it more than reasonable that if we are to consider landlords socially useful anywhere close to the value of their service (it doesn't cost £100s per month to fix the odd leaky tap or what have you; and even the cost of renovating is little compared to the fact of eventual ownership) it is when they are agents of social risk. That is, their monetary incentive should also be to mitigate any potential social damage done by problematic individuals, including those with poor credit or who could potentially be seen as 'undesirables' one way or another. If their historical value as sort of micro-monarchs of a protectorate, and a hopefully benevolent ministry to shelter related issues, is not maintained shouldn't we be asking, if they are to eschew the social responsibility aspects of housing provision: what are landlords for? That is, what services do they offer we wouldn't be better off without for the cost they have to the renting classes?
Regarding the second topic, that of cultural tensions and differences, I certainly think one should have the right to choose one's housing companions. But I would hope that if the provision is not included in the bill that this was perhaps an oversight, and probably should be. I'd note that no-one is under obligation to become a landlord at any point, but the imperative to shelter is one of the most basic fundamental needs which should be given to all people within a country and must be protected by law. Doing otherwise tends to lead to much more serious social problems, by all accounts I am currently aware of.
As to enforceability, where there's a will there's usually a way. And even if not, is it not better to have a good law barely enforced than no good law at all? Better to do a little good than none, given the choice, surely?