Utah Disability Law Center says housing discrimination an issue in the Beehive State

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A team of secret testers is catching landlords in Utah discriminating against potential tenants, according to the Utah Disability Law Center.

They run a program to ensure apartment complexes are following the rules under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of things like race, gender, disability and religion.

“We’ve found a number of instances of discrimination, both subtle and blatant, across a number of different protected classes all around the Wasatch Front,” said Nick Jackson, a Fair Housing attorney.

Three years ago, the center received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to organize tests to determine whether or not Utah’s housing facilities are complying with federal law.

Since Jackson began working at the center in 2014, they’ve filed 20 complaints for HUD to review because of the findings in their tests.

“I was surprised at kind of the deviousness of the efforts to discriminate,” Jackson said. “Despite Salt Lake’s reputation as kind of a liberal haven, the evidence shows that housing and discrimination is a real problem here.”

Currently, they have 150 people working with the center to test Utah’s landlords.

FOX 13 News was able to sit in on one of the center’s tests, Friday.  A tester pretending to be a single mother of two called a West Valley City apartment complex to inquire about a unit. All the responses were documented. Later, another tester posing as a woman with no children will call the same complex. The responses will then be compared.

“Despite Utah’s family-friendly image, there are a number of tenants that get turned away for having kids,” explained Jackson.

In one recent case, the owners of an apartment complex settled for $1,000 with HUD after testers found they were discriminating against disabled residents who needed a service or companion animal.

Currently, they have several other cases pending.

“We don’t live in a post-racial society,” Jackson said. “Things are not all better, and we do have a lot of work to do.”

While the grant is set to expire at the end of 2016, Jackson is hopeful that it will be renewed.

“I’m sure that the more that we expand, the more violations we’ll find," he said.


  • Trish

    It’s terrible all over the state if you’re not a card-carrying mormon. Straight up. Single moms get it bad, people with tattoos, the LGBT community. Generally the first question I was asked by potential landlords in the Orem/Provo area was what ward/stake I was moving from followed by immediate general information about my NEW ward/stake. What’s terrible is all of the Utah County housing that’s BYU approved even though UVU is in the vicinity. This often forces students to live in units that are managed by the mormon gestapo whether they are mormon or not or going to mormon university or not. If this isn’t blatant discrimination, I don’t know what is. Telling people they can’t DRINK in a rental unit is something else that grinds my gears – I mean I get smoking and pets what with the potential damage that can be caused – but listing a unit that bans drinking by people of legal drinking age on the property? That’s just one more way to discriminate against the non-mormons in the area. I knew so many people who would smuggle their booze into their apartments -then have to smuggle it back out. Their landlords would never know, because they weren’t partying or doing damage to the units. Oh no. Their mormon neighbors would spy on them and call the landlord if they saw empty beer cans in the dumpster. The mormon gestapo doesn’t stop with the harassment once people graduate college and get out of BYU approved housing – these folks take their duty to tattle on their neighbors seriously til the day they die. Seems like they lack a personal level of trust in jebus to sort the wheat from the chaff.

  • Ray

    This problem is more widespread then anyone could imagine. We have a family member, a single mother with traumatic brain injury raising a child with autism. Our family member requested a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act to a large property management company she was renting from. The property had extensive drug activity and domestic disturbances going on that was affecting their health and the child’s access to his education. The request was to mutually terminate her lease because the company would not defend their right to quietness and enjoyment and it was impacting their disabilities. Well instead of honoring the request, the company had their lawyer start eviction proceedings against her and the filings now show up on background checks when ever she applies for an apt. She sought help from places like DLC, ULS, and UALD with very little or no results. The litigation against our family member has kept her so busy that she has not had the time to secure another apartment and ended up in a motel that is eating up their social security funds they need to survive off and they are at risk for homelessness.

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