Fair Housing Month commemorates the 1968 passage of the Fair Housing Act, a landmark law that protects renters and buyers from housing discrimination. That means you have certain rights when renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.
Here’s a breakdown of Fair Housing provisions and resources to learn more.
Who is protected?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential real estate transactions based on any of the following.
- Sex, including gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual harassment
- Familial status
- National origin
In some cases, state and local laws offer additional protections. In addition, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or whether all of part of the applicants’ income comes from a public assistance program.
What types of housing are covered?
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In very limited circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
What does fair housing mean for renters, buyers, and borrowers?
At its most basic, the Fair Housing Act ensures that when you’re buying or renting a home, you will be treated fairly. Its goal is to ensure everyone has the same access to housing.
As a seller, it means treating all prospective buyers equally. Fair Housing standards also apply to real estate professionals, mortgage lenders, landlords, and anyone else involved in the housing process.
If you own your home, or are buying a home, mortgage lenders and loan servicers may not discriminate against you for mortgage servicing practices – such as forbearance and loan modifications – based on the statuses protected by the Fair Housing and Equal Credit Opportunity Acts.
If you are renting a home or apartment, your landlord cannot do any of the following based on the above protected statuses.
- Sexually harass you
- Refuse to rent to you
- Evict you, or
- Change or set different rules for your rental agreement
If you or your landlord receive federal financial assistance for housing, you are also protected from housing discrimination based on age.
Housing providers also must make reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications that may be necessary to allow persons with disabilities to enjoy their housing.
For specific examples of what is prohibited, visit Examples of Housing Discrimination.
What can I do if my rights have been violated?
If you suspect your rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or file a lawsuit in court. You may report violations of the ECOA to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or file a lawsuit in court.
Because there are time limits on when a complaint can be filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development after an alleged violation, submit a complaint as soon as possible.