WHAT'S THE LAW?
Law protects transgendered tenants
Question: I live in a home with a small two-bedroom cottage on the property. My former tenants moved, and I recently advertised for a new tenant for the cottage. I received a call from a pleasant woman who is professionally employed. She was unable to come and meet with me to fill out an application due to her work schedule, so I sent her one and she returned it promptly along with references from past landlords and her current employer (with a verification of income). She is a CPA and earns a high salary. On top of that, all the people she listed as references spoke highly of her. I ran a credit check on her, and she has excellent credit. Based on all this, I decided I wanted to rent the cottage to her and let her know that she could look at it when she was free, and if she liked it, it was hers. When I finally met her, she turned out to be a woman who is or was a man. I felt uncomfortable around her and did not want to rent to her. Can I legally withdraw my offer to rent to her?
Answer: From Legal Aid's fair-housing unit: The state of Hawaii recently added gender identity expression as a protected class with respect to housing discrimination. Along with race, sex, sexual orientation, color, religion, marital status, familial status, ancestry, disability, age or HIV status, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an otherwise qualified prospective tenant simply because he or she is transgendered. Above all else, this particular landlord should consider that the prospective tenant is a professional who most likely earns considerably more than enough to pay the rent and has excellent credit and rental histories (based on the references). The fact that she is transgendered has no bearing on her ability to be a good tenant.
April is National Fair Housing Month. If you have any questions about your fair-housing rights or feel that your fair-housing rights have been violated, please call the Fair Housing Enforcement Program at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. On Oahu call 527-8024. On the neighbor islands call (866) 527-3247.