The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
What is prohibited?
No one may take the following actions because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing or negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable or deny you housing
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges when selling or renting housing
- Provide different services or facilities when renting or selling housing
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- Refuse to make a mortgage loan or provide information regarding loans
- Impose different terms or conditions on a mortgage loan
- Discriminate in appraising property
- Refuse to purchase a loan or set different terms and conditions for purchasing a loan
What type of housing does it cover?
Most types of housing are covered under the Fair Housing Act. The sale and rental of housing as well as mortgage lending are covered in most circumstances. However, in some cases there are types of housing which the Fair Housing Act does not apply. The Fair Housing Act may not apply to the following types of housing in some cases:
- Owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units,
- Single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and
- Housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
Additional protection if you have a disability
If you or someone in your household have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, your landlord may not:
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. For example: A building with a no pets policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Housing for families
Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:
- A parent
- A person who has legal custody of the child or children or
- The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian’s written permission.
Familial status protections also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.
Some housing designated primarily for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against discrimination based on familial status. Housing for older persons is exempt if:
- It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older, or
- It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older, or
- The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State, or local government program.
Making a complaint to HUD
If you think your rights have been violated, you can make a complaint to HUD. HUD may provide assistance if you think your rights have been violated and you have been subject to housing discrimination. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but HUD encourages people to file complaints as soon as possible.
Click here to file a complaint with HUD and follow HUD’s instructions for filing a complaint.
This information is adapted from HUD’s website. For more information on Fair Housing, click here to visit HUD’s Fair Housing website.