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Occupation not a Protected Class Under Fair Housing

Question: My wife and I recently moved to the Phoenix area from New York. We are both lawyers, and we have credit scores in the 800s. We wanted to rent a nice home in Paradise Valley for a year, until we decided where we want to live permanently. We signed a lease for this home and our real estate agent presented the lease to the landlord for his signature. The landlord was pleased with the terms of the lease, but when he did a credit check and learned that we were lawyers, he refused to sign the lease. We can’t believe that the landlord can refuse to rent to us just because we are lawyers. Is that allowed in Arizona?

Answer:Under federal and state fair housing laws, including Arizona, unless a buyer or a tenant is a member of a protected class, e.g., race or disability, a homeowner can refuse to sell or rent to that buyer or tenant. Although some people may think that the practice of law is evidence of a disability, lawyers are not within a protected class. Therefore, the Paradise Valley homeowner can refuse to rent to you.

Note: In a California Court of Appeals decision the developer of a new home project in the Bakersfield area was allowed to not only enforce a prohibition against selling a new home to a lawyer, but also advertise the development as lawyer-free.

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