Housing discrimination: Frequently asked questions

Discrimination rears its ugly head in countless forms and in many different areas of life. Some employers, for example, refuse to hire people from certain races and backgrounds. Meanwhile, some people simply refuse to make friends with certain individuals based on superficial factors. The problem of discrimination even extends into housing.

There are no laws that say whom people can make friends with, but there are laws against employment-related and housing-related discrimination. As a matter of law, landlords cannot exclude people from renting their properties on the basis of a protected characteristic like race.

Who is protected from housing discrimination?

By virtue of the federal Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendment -- along with other state and local laws -- landlords cannot refuse to rent a property to a tenant because of the tenant's:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Religion;
  • Family status, including having children;
  • Pregnancy status;
  • Physical or mental disability;
  • Sex; and,
  • In the case of some state and local laws, landlords may also not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status and age.

What does the federal Fair Housing Act require?

The Fair Housing Act requires landlords, property owners, property managers and real estates to provide equal treatment to all tenants. They cannot:

  • Deny rental to people on the basis of race.
  • Steer specific renters to specific properties on the basis of a protected status.
  • Unreasonably restrict how many people can reside in a rental space.
  • Put limitations or preferences in rental advertisements.
  • Set up different standards and terms for different tenants.
  • Only provide facilities or services for specific residents.
  • Terminate a lease as a result of discrimination.
  • Create a hostile sexual environment or demand sexual favors.
  • Refuse to offer reasonable accommodations to disabled individuals.
  • Permit other tenants to engage in discriminatory practices, such as harassment, threats or other actions.

If you were the victim of housing discrimination

If you've suffered from housing discrimination, you might not have to put up with this unlawful conduct. The law may be on your side in terms of getting fair treatment, or seeking justice in court for the discrimination you endured.

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