The Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IFHC) is investigating alleged discrimination by Pocatello landlords. An article last month in the Idaho State Journal newspaper quoted multiple Pocatello landlords saying they charge higher deposits and advanced rent to Idaho State University students from Middle Eastern countries.
The nonprofit housing watchdog began to receive complaints before the Journal article was published and more complaints have come in since according to director Zoe Ann Olson.
Landlords told the Journal that Middle Eastern men are hard on apartments because they don’t clean and they "tend to set up hookahs in the middle of living areas in apartments so they can smoke, and the devices burn holes in the carpet." But Olson says they can’t discriminate based on stereotypes.
“The purpose of the federal Fair Housing Act, the spirit behind it was to address prejudices we may have based on one experience and attributing [behavior] to that person’s national origin or their race or color or religion or families,” Olson says.
In other words, just because one – or even many Middle Eastern tenants – have caused the landlord headaches, it’s illegal to charge others more on the assumption they’ll do the same thing. Olson says the fair housing council has reached out to a group of Pocatello landlords in hopes of helping them comply with the law.
“And if we can’t remediate it then we can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Olson says. “And we can also, as an agency file a complaint in federal court.”
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