Fair Housing Laws and How it Protects Renters in the U.S.

Posted by: TheGuarantors on November 23, 2021

Are you applying to various places only to get shut out? If you have solid rental history and credit, then you may have to read up about fair housing laws.

If you think that you are not being given an equal housing opportunity based on your Race, Religion, Color, Sex, National Origin, or any other reason, then you may have to file a discrimination complaint against the landlord.

However, you should read up before you start filing charges. Check out our guide on fair housing laws for all the details.

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What are Fair Housing Laws?

The Fair Housing Act was created to help curtail discriminatory practices in housing. Fair housing laws are specifically devised to prevent property managers and homeowners to restrict renting or selling their houses from a specific category of people. Moreover, these housing discrimination laws are created on the basic principle that every American should have equal opportunity to find a place to live.

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Who is protected by the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act protects certain classes of people from discrimination. While these classes are provided protection by this act at the federal level, each state may have local housing discrimination laws that provide additional forms of protection. So, you’ll have to read up on the specific laws in the area you’re trying to rent. In a federal capacity, these are the categories of identity protected by fair housing laws:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Familial status
  • Physical or mental disability

What does the Fair Housing Act prohibit?

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Here are some of the actions the Fair Housing Act prohibits:

Denying potential renters equal housing opportunities

While an outright refusal to rent to an individual is grounds for the enforcement of this act, even steering the potential renter away from housing opportunities or certain neighborhoods is classified under this section.

Discriminating during the screening process

The landlord should give people in protected classes equal opportunity to apply. Since there is a possibility of unintentional discrimination, landlords are required to come up with a consistent method of screening and accepting renters.

Discriminatory advertising

The Fair Housing Act prohibits all kinds of discriminatory advertising. It essentially states that you can not advertise properties to only a specific group of people and that everybody should have an equal opportunity to apply for any rental property.

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Who's exempt from the Fair Housing Act?

Although fair housing laws apply to all multifamily dwellings and single-family units, there are some exemptions:

  • The home-owner is exempt from this Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Housing Law if they have a property with less than 4 units.
  • If the house is run by a religious organization, it can be exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
  • The house can also be exempt from the act if it’s owned by a private club or organization.
  • Property managers are also exempt if the whole house is sold or rented privately without a real estate agent.

However, it is important to note that while landlords in these circumstances are exempt from this act, it is still illegal to advertise using discriminatory content.

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How does HUD ensure the act is enforced?

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So, how exactly can the Fair Housing Act protect you? Who enforces it? Well, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the government organization that is responsible for enforcing the FHA.

The agency enforces fair HUD housing laws in two ways. First, they investigate discrimination claims filed by individuals. So, if you feel that your fair HUD housing rights have been violated in some manner, then you can file a claim with Housing and Urban Development. The HUD will carefully investigate the claim and determine if any further legal action is appropriate.

Second, the HUD proactively enforces the housing law by hiring people to pose as potential renters or home buyers to check if there are any discriminatory practices.

How does a renter file a discrimination claim?

If as a renter or a home buyer you feel like you have been violated under the Fair Housing Act, you can always reach out to HUD for assistance. If you want to register a complaint all you have to do is head to the HUD’s website and fill in the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form.

The HUD will require some important information. In addition to your information, you will need the name and address of the individual you're filing the complaint against and the address of the house in question. You may also have to write a short description and the date of the alleged violation.

Once all of this is complete, the HUD will go through the complaint and investigate the claim. They will determine if there is a cause to the claim and even attempt conciliation before escalating it to a court hearing.

If you want to know everything about fair housing laws and if you can be protected under them, then check out HUD’s official PDF resource!