Fair Housing: What Do I Need to Know?

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It may be difficult to imagine that in our day, housing discrimination is still an issue. HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) has estimated that each year, over 2 million cases of housing discrimination occur, but less than 1% are reported.

What Does Housing Discrimination Look Like?
Housing discrimination can take on many forms. It may not appear as such on the surface, which is why buyers and real estate agents need to be aware and proactive when working through the housing process.

When it comes to selling and renting homes, The Fair Housing Act prohibits actions such as

  • Refusing to allow a disabled individual to add reasonable accommodations to a dwelling
  • Denying a dwelling to someone based on his or her race
  • Set different rental terms for families with children

In the area of mortgage lending, the following are also illegal:

  • Refusing someone a mortgage loan based on gender
  • Modifying loan terms based on disability
  • Refusing to purchase a loan for an individual due to his or her religion

These points are just a few examples of prohibited discriminatory behavior in the area of housing.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination in regards to housing and potential occupants. Individuals who wish to pursue the sale or rental of a dwelling cannot be denied due to his or her race, color, disability, or other factors. In January 2015, the Supreme Court met to consider making changes to the Fair Housing Act, which would have made victories over housing discrimination cases more difficult. However, the law remains the same.

How Am I Protected?

· If you have a disability: Your landlord may not refuse to allow you to make reasonable modifications (your expense), including the use of service animals and reserved parking spaces. For newer buildings, hallways and commons areas must be accessible to you.

· If you have a family: You cannot be refused a dwelling if you have children or are a legal guardian. Advertisements for housing may not state that children are discouraged from living in that particular residence or community. The only exception to this rule is when a community is specifically designed for older adults.

· If you are a minority: A landlord or real estate agent may not “steer” you toward a certain neighborhood based on your race. A bank may not refuse to loan money to a homebuyer based on the fact that the home is in a “minority neighborhood.”

What Action Can I Take?

HUD has made available a process for those individuals who believe their rights may have been violated. A Complaint Form, phone number, and address to the nearest office are available online. The time limit for filing a complaint from the date of violation is one year.  After you state your claim, HUD goes through a process of allowing the alleged violator an opportunity to make a statement, an investigation takes place, and you will be notified of the results.
No matter if you are a homebuyer, a renter, a landlord, or just looking for property, it is important to be aware of the laws and pro-active in your own circumstances. Do not be afraid to speak up for the rights of others who may face fair housing issues. When you are well informed, others can benefit as well.