Housing Discrimination

What types of housing discrimination are renters protected from?

  •  The federal Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act (42 U.S. Code §§ 3601-3619, 3631) prohibit landlords from choosing tenants on the basis of a group characteristic such as:

     Race, religion, ethnic background or national origin, sex, familial status, including having children or being pregnant (except in certain designated senior housing), or a mental or physical disability. In addition, some state and local laws prohibit discrimination based on a person’s marital status, age, or sexual orientation.

     Landlords can always select tenants using criteria that are based on valid business reasons, such as requiring a minimum income or positive references from previous landlords, as long as these standards are applied equally to all tenants.

     What kinds of subtle discrimination are illegal?

      •  The Fair Housing Acts prohibit landlords from taking any of the following actions based on race, religion, or any other protected category:

      • falsely denying that a rental unit is available to some applicants

      • advertising that indicates a preference based on group characteristic, such as skin color setting more restrictive standards, such as higher income, for certain tenants

      • refusing to reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled tenants, such as allowing a guide dog, hearing dog, or other service animal

      • setting different terms for some tenants, such as adopting an inconsistent policy of responding to late rent payments, or

      • terminating a tenancy for a discriminatory reason