Fair Housing – Equal Opportunity for All
America, in every way, represents equality of opportunity for all persons. The rich diversity of its citizens and the spirit of unity that binds us all symbolize the principles of freedom and justice upon which this nation was founded. That is why it is extremely disturbing when new immigrants, minorities, families with children, and persons with disabilities are denied the housing of their choice because of illegal discrimination.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination and the intimidation of people in their homes, apartment buildings, and condominium developments – in nearly all housing transactions, including the rental and sale of housing and the provision of mortgage loans.
Equal access to rental housing and homeownership opportunities is the cornerstone of this nation’s federal housing policy. Housing providers who refuse to rent or sell homes to people based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability are violating federal law, and HUD will vigorously pursue enforcement actions against them.
Housing discrimination is not only illegal, it contradicts in every way the principles of freedom and opportunity we treasure as Americans. HUD is committed to ensuring that everyone is treated equally when searching for a place to call home.
The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of:
- Race or color
- National Origin
- Familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians; pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18)
What Housing is Covered?
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts 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.
What is Prohibited?
In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Otherwise deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental
- For profit, persuade, or try to persuade homeowners to sell or rent dwellings by suggesting that people of a particular race, etc. have moved, or are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting) or
- Deny any person access to, membership or participation in, any organization, facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of dwellings, or discriminate against any person in the terms or conditions of such access, membership or participation.
In Mortgage Lending: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin:
- Refuse to make a mortgage loan
- Refuse to provide information regarding loans
- Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
- Discriminate in appraising property
- Refuse to purchase a loan or
- Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.
- In addition, it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to:
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise the right
- Make, print, or publish any statement, in connection with the sale or rental of a dwelling, which indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act
- Refuse to provide homeowners insurance coverage for a dwelling because of the race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
- Discriminate in the terms or conditions of homeowners insurance coverage because of the race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
- Refuse to provide available information on the full range of homeowners insurance coverage options available because of the race, etc. of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
- Make print or publish any statement, in connection with the provision of homeowners insurance coverage, that indicates a preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.
Additional Protection If You Have a Disability
If you or someone associated with you:
- Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, cancer, chronic mental illness, HIV/ AIDS, or mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Have a record of such a disability or
- Are regarded as having such a disability, a housing provider may not:
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if it may be necessary for you to fully use the housing. (Where reasonable, a 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 it may be necessary for you to use the housing on an equal basis with nondisabled persons.
However, the Fair Housing Act does not protect a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.
Accessibility Requirements for New Multifamily Buildings: In buildings with four or more units that were first occupied after March 13, 1991, and that have an elevator:
- Public and common use areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
- All doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
- All units must have:
- An accessible route into and through the unit
- Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls
- Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and
- Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
If a building with four or more units has no elevator and was first occupied after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units only.
These accessibility requirements for new multifamily buildings do not replace more stringent accessibility standards required under State or local law.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person whose household includes one or more children who are under 18 years of age (familial status). Familial status protection covers households in which one or more minor children live with:
- A parent;
- A person who has legal custody (including guardianship) of a minor child or children; or
- The designee of a parent or legal custodian, with the written permission of the parent or legal custodian.
Familial status protection also extends to pregnant women and any person in the process of securing legal custody of a minor child (including adoptive or foster parents).
The “Housing for Older Persons” Exemption: The Fair Housing Act specifically exempts some senior housing facilities and communities from liability for familial status discrimination. Exempt senior housing facilities or communities can lawfully refuse to sell or rent dwellings to families with minor children. In order to qualify for the “housing for older persons” exemption, a facility or community must prove that its housing is:
- Provided under any State or Federal program that HUD has determined to be specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons (as defined in the State or Federal program); or
- Intended for, and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or
- Intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.
In order to qualify for the “55 or older” housing exemption, a facility or community must satisfy each of the following requirements:
- at least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older; and
- the facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to operate as “55 or older” housing; and
- the facility or community must comply with HUD’s regulatory requirements for age verification of residents.
The “housing for older persons” exemption does not protect senior housing facilities or communities from liability for housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin.
HUD is ready to help with any problem of housing discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, you may file a complaint online, write a letter or telephone the HUD office nearest you. You have one year after the alleged discrimination occurred or ended to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.
If You Think your Rights Have Been Violated
What to Tell HUD:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the respondent)
- The address or other identification of the housing involved
- A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused you to believe your rights were violated)
- The date(s) of the alleged violation.
Where to Write or Call: File a complaint online, send a letter to the HUD office nearest you, or if you wish, you may call that office directly. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and use a TTY, may call those offices through the toll-free Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.
Resource page https://www.hud.gov/fairhousing