Fair Housing

Fair Housing - It's Your Right


The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing. The prohibitions specifically cover discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children.

Covered Housing


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.

Prohibited Activity


In the sale and rental of housing no one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
In mortgage lending no one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):
  • Discriminate in appraising property
  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan
  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans
  • Refuse to purchase a loan or
  • Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.
In addition, it is illegal for anyone to:
  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

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, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and 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...
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.

Requirements for New Buildings


In buildings that are ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units:
  • Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls
  • All units must have: An accessible route into and through the unit
  • Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
  • Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
  • Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and
If a building with four or more units has no elevator and will be ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units. These requirements for new buildings do not replace any more stringent standards in state or local law.

Housing Opportunities 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:
  • The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian's written permission.
  • A parent
  • A person who has legal custody of the child or children or
Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18. Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:
  • The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a federal, state or local government program
  • 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% of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older.
A transition period permits residents on or before September 13, 1988, to continue living in the housing, regardless of their age, without interfering with the exemption.

If You Think Your Rights Have Been Violated


HUD is ready to help with any problem of housing discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form is available for you to download, complete and return, or complete online and submit, or you may write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD Office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.

Step 1: What to Tell HUD


  • The address or other identification to the housing involved
  • The date(s) to the alleged violation
  • The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the respondent)
  • A short description to the alleged violation (the event that caused you to believe your rights were violated)
  • Your name and address

Step 2: Where to Write or Call


Send the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or a letter to the HUD Office nearest you or you may call that office directly.

If You Are Disabled


HUD also provides:
  • Assistance in reading and completing forms
  • Interpreters
  • Tapes and braille materials
  • A toll-free TTY phone for the hearing impaired: 800-927-9275.
Learn more about Fair Housing by visiting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's website. You can also contact the Office of Grant Management and Community Development to request more information at 956-548-6167.