The easy answer is, “The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing.” A better answer will take a little longer.
As we said in our last post, the Act applies to lenders, landlords, sellers, condominium and co-op boards, homeowner associations, real estate brokers and just about everyone else who has anything to do with any kind of housing transaction. The Act specifically bars discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children. Again, as we said, sexual preference and gender identity are not part of the Act right now, but that may change, especially in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development adds that these prohibitions are more subtle than some might expect. Yes, the outright refusal to rent or to sell to a person with a disability is illegal, but so is threatening, coercing, intimidating or interfering with that person’s right, whether the victim is the person with the disability (or member of another protected class) or a person helping the person with a disability.
Advertising and other statements may not indicate a limitation or preference based on any of the protected classes. Other statements include rules, lease agreements and even oral statements.
Landlords, lenders and others are also barred from setting different terms for different classes of people. A landlord may not charge a family more for a one-bedroom apartment that he or she would charge a single person. A banker may not increase the interest rate or shorten the term of a loan for an applicant who is a member of a protected class.
We’ll finish this up in our next post.
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Fair Housing: It’s Your Right,” accessed July 20, 2015