Fair Housing Information

Basic Facts About The Fair Housing Act

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, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):

Refuse to rent or sell housing
Refuse to negotiate for housing
Make housing unavailable
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 owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
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.

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):

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 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.

Example: A building with a "no pets" policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.

Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near his/her apartment if necessary to assure that he/she can have access to their apartment.

Note that housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.


Requirements for New Buildings

In buildings constructed after March 1991 that have four or more units and an elevator:

Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities

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 accessible to people in wheelchairs.

If a building constructed after March 1991 with four or more units has no elevator, 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:

A parent,
A person who has legal custody of the child or children or,
The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian's written permission.

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 or,
- 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 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older.