Tools & Tips

Illegal Discrimination

Nov 22, 2016

Discrimination questions you can’t afford to leave unanswered.

What types of housing discrimination are illegal?

The federal Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act (42 U.S. Code 3601-3619, 3631) prohibit landlords from choosing tenants on the basis of a group characteristic such as:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Ethnic background or national origin
  • Sex
  • Age
  • The fact that the prospective tenant has children (except in certain designated senior housing)
  • Mental or physical disability

In addition, some state and local laws prohibit discrimination based on a person’s marital status or sexual orientation.

On the other hand, landlords are allowed to select tenants using criteria that are based on valid business reasons, such as requiring a minimum income or positive references from previous landlords, as long as these standards are applied equally to all tenants.

What are examples of housing discrimination?

The Fair Housing Act and Amendments prohibit landlords from taking any of the following actions based on race, religion or any other protected category:

  • Advertising or making any statement that indicates a preference based on group characteristic, such as skin color.
  • Falsely denying that a rental unit is available.
  • Setting more restrictive standards for certain tenants, such as higher income.
  • Refusing to rent to members of certain groups.
  • Refusing to accommodate the needs of disabled tenants, such as allowing a guide dog, hearing dog or service dog.
  • Setting different terms for some tenants, such as adopting an inconsistent policy of responding to late rent payments.
  • Terminating a tenancy for a discriminatory reason.