What You Need to Know About Iowa’s Fair Housing Act

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The Iowa Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords, banks, insurance companies, or real estate agents from denying services to individuals based on their race, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, disabilities, or religion. 
Some may remember the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968. Not only was this a huge step forward for the Civil Rights movement, but it left a long-lasting impact on modern renters and homebuyers. What’s more, is that this law continues to change—2021 saw the FHA extend protections that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation
For Iowa residents, all FHA violation complaints are filed through the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (otherwise known as "the Commission"). However, this isn't the case in every state. The super app and insurance pro, Jerry, is here to walk you through the ins and outs of fair housing laws in the Hawkeye state
If you want to understand the FHA's protections better, learn about reasonable accommodations, and how to save on car, home, and renters insurance, look no further than this handy guide.   
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Does Iowa have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes—the state’s Fair Housing Act is provided by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Under state law, you cannot deny a person housing based on:
  • Race, national origin, or color
  • Religion or creed
  • Sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • Mental or physical disabilities
  • Familial status (think: families with children or pregnant people)
  • Retaliation against an individual who has filed a charge or discrimination complaint
But, what specific actions are prohibited? To start, know that the law applies to anyone who manages or is involved with housing services—this includes landlords, rental managers, real estate brokers, banks, contractors or architects, insurance companies, and others.
These individuals may not do any of the following based on the characteristics described above:
  • Refuse to rent or sell property
  • Refuse to give or process an application for residency
  • Claim that housing isn’t available when in truth, it’s available
  • Deny property insurance
  • Harass tenants, prospective residents, guests, or prospective real estate buyers
  • Refuse to provide information regarding mortgages
  • Provide different housing services or facilities from what is advertised
  • Advertise or give any indication that housing is only available to certain groups
  • Refuse to accommodate individuals with disabilities
However, know that there are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, if the apartment or unit is part of an owner-occupied building with no more than four units, the Fair Housing Act does not apply. Other excluded situations include single-family homes sold and/or rented without a real estate broker or organizations and/or private clubs that only provide housing to eligible members. 
If you feel as though your rights to fair housing have been violated based on the restrictions described above, head to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to file a discrimination complaint.
Key Takeaway Iowa’s Fair Housing Act protects individuals from any discrimination based on race, sexual identity, religion, or disabilities. However, housing provided by owner-occupied homes, privately-run organizations, or sold without a broker is not protected under the state’s Fair Housing Act. 

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

The Iowa Fair Housing Act also provides rules ensuring accessible housing for individuals with disabilities. What’s more, the passing of the 1991 Fair Housing Act by the federal government provided national protection for accessible housing. Under this law, multifamily housing must provide both reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications. Let’s break down the differences between the two. 
If the housing provider’s rules, policies, practices, or services prevent a disabled individual from using or enjoying the residence, the individual may request reasonable accommodation. This can include any change or alteration to the way things are normally done to allow the individual full access to the residence. 
Common reasonable accommodation requests are:
  • Providing a person with a physical disability an accessible parking space
  • Allowing a current tenant to move into a ground-floor unit
  • Making exceptions to “no pets” rules for tenants needing service animals 
So, what’s a reasonable modification? These requests seek structural changes to be made to the dwelling. Whether it’s building a ramp to help an individual with a mobility impairment enter the building, widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair, or installing a grab bar in the bathroom, tenants may seek modifications made to the building’s interior or exterior
When a tenant makes a reasonable modification request, Iowa law states that the tenant and landlord must come to a mutual agreement about the modification. This agreement will state the type of work to be done and who will make the changes, plus any other details included in the agreement. 
If your landlord refuses to make reasonable changes or accommodations, you report a complaint under the Fair Housing Act.

How to file a fair housing complaint in Iowa

All fair housing complaints made in Iowa go through the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to register your complaint:
  • Make a call to the Commission or your attorney
  • Once the Commission receives the complaint, they will investigate the circumstances you’ve reported
  • After the investigation, the Commission will then attempt to resolve the complaint by mediating a conversation between the individual who filed the complaint and the person or organization the complaint was filed against
  • If the complaint fails to be resolved, the individual may file a petition in the district court
If you want to file a complaint, do so sooner than later—all complaints made to the Commission must be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory act. If you’re submitting a complaint to the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), your complaint must be submitted within a year
No matter which side of the disagreement you’re on, know that all complaints made to the Commission are entirely confidential

State agency vs. local offices

Typically, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission will be your go-to resource for making any housing discrimination complaints. But depending on where you live in the Hawkeye state or what your needs are, there are additional agencies set up to handle fair housing inquiries. 
Here’s a look at other local agencies that address fair housing:
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How to save money on home and renters insurance in Iowa

Whether you’re renting or buying a house, Iowa makes sure all individuals have the right to fair housing. Part of the state’s Fair Housing Act specifically guarantees everyone fair and equal access to home and renters insurance. That’s where Jerry comes in. 
The No. 1 rated super app in the country, Jerry, the insurance comparison super app, can help you find the best and most affordable insurance policies out there. Whether it's covering a car, house, or rental unit, Jerry does a comprehensive dive into the policies from the top name-brand insurance providers. Then, once you've looked through the app's recommendations and have made your pick, the Jerry experts can get your policy started and help take care of any paperwork to cancel your old policy
If you want to save even more, the app can find you the best options for bundling your auto and homeowners insurance!
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If you have a Fair Housing violation to report in Iowa, start by calling the Iowa Civil Rights Commission at 1-800-457-4416 or 1-515-281-4121. Or, if you have an attorney, give them a call first and they will help you file the complaint with the Commission. All complaints made to the Commission must be made within 300 days of the violation.

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