Renting a Home

Fair Housing

What is fair housing?

"Fair housing" is a legal term applied to federal, state, and municipal laws that prohibit landlords from refusing to rent property because the prospective tenant falls into one or more certain protected classes.

The Fair Housing Act (Chapter 42 of the United States Code, beginning at Section 3601) forbids landlords to discriminate in choosing tenants because of their race, religion, ethnic origin, color, sex, physical or mental handicap, or family status. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to a family with children. It is also illegal under the Fair Housing Act for landlords to harass, intimidate, threaten, interfere with, or evict a tenant because of the same factors. Furthermore, the same law prohibits the landlord from attempting to evict a tenant for filing a complaint or lawsuit charging the landlord with discrimination.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Chapter 42 of the U.S. Code, Section 1982) prohibits discrimination because of the race, ethnic origin, or color of the tenants. This federal law applies to all landlords without any exceptions.

All the states and many cities have enacted fair housing laws as well. Some of these laws are not as strict as the federal law, but some are stricter because they protect additional classes of persons. For example, some states and municipalities forbid rental discrimination based on marital status, age (over 40 especially), less than honorable discharge from the military, sexual orientation, or source of income (welfare, social security, alimony, or child support).

>>Is a landlord allowed to discriminate in the selection of tenants?
>>What is fair housing?
>>What can a prospective tenant -- one who tried to rent a home and was turned down -- do against a landlord who discriminates illegally?
>>How can the prospective tenant prove that the landlord has illegally discriminated?
>>What are the possible outcomes for a prospective tenant who files a complaint or a lawsuit for discrimination?


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