As an individual looking to purchasing a new home or renting an apartment or a condo, you can face discrimination in the process. Therefore, it’s important to know your rights and ensure you are not being discriminated against. Housing discrimination happens when a seller, landlord, leaser, or a real estate agent infringes on your rights for obtaining the home or the rental space.

Federal and state laws prohibit property discrimination and instilled rules to protect the people from being discriminated against. For example, the Fair Housing Act sets standards for everyone and outlines what is considered property discrimination.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, family status, sex, age, disability status and pregnant women. It applies to all aspects of purchasing or renting property.

The following actions are prohibited under the Act:

  • Advertising or making a statement that infringes the rights any race or any religion or any of the protected categories mentioned above;
  • Making false notions to deny a rental space that is available; 
  • Setting more restrictive standards for some than others or deny rental space;  
  • Inconsistency in terms, privileges, and deposit date for renting places for some over there and; 
  • Terminating a tenancy for discriminatory reasons.

Landlords or real estate agents cannot turn away certain individuals based on race or religion. For example, giving preference for application priority to only Asians in a rental condo indicates discrimination based on race. Faith-based discrimination can be common in acquiring property too. An example of this is prohibiting a certain religious belief to be allowed in a residential area.

Discrimination based on national origin is illegal as well. For instance, a commercial that specifically advertises for discounts to a certain group is discriminatory. It is also illegal to inquire about the prospective applicant’s immigration status and landlords cannot require proof of any citizenship.

Tenants have also been turned away due to family status. For example, families with children can create noise and disturbances for an apartment complex. However, a landlord can not refuse them to lease a space in the apartment. If the landlord excluded them from the apartment complex it is considered property discrimination based on family status. In some rare cases, landlords can be more restrictive but only to serve a legitimate business purpose.

Age is also another factor that landlords cannot discriminate against. For example, they cannot set harsher rules for one age versus another. Furthermore, a landlord cannot turn away a tenant based on a physical or mental disability. Federal law provides additional protection to the disabled and demands that they have to live in an accessible area. The landlord is obligated to undergo reasonable measures to ensure that the residential dwelling is accommodating for the disabled.

Another extended protection provided by the federal law is to two special groups that include recovering alcoholics and former drug addicts. For example, a landlord cannot deny you a place solely on the basis of being a former drug addict. However, it is permissible to deny housing if the former drug addict also has a bad credit, negative references and a non reliable employment history. For these reasons combined someone can be denied housing and it would not be considered property discrimination.

Additionally, landlords cannot deny you a place to live solely based on your gender. For example, apartment areas with single women tend to have more security concerns due to more break ins. A landlord cannot use this reason to discriminate against providing equivalent housing for both males and females.

What Properties are Exempt from the Federal Anti- Discrimination Laws?

Not every residential property is covered by the federal Fair Housing laws these include:

  • Owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units; 
  • Single-family housing rented without the use of advertising or without a real estate broker; 
  • Specific types of housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to their members and; 
  • Housing can be exclusive for only senior citizens and this is allowed.

These laws can vary state by state on the rules for the exception that are generally covered under the federal Fair Housing laws.

When Can You be Legally Denied Housing?

Landlords must keep their prospective and current tenants process objective and conduct fair screening that is consistent with all the applicants. These are the following factors that are legally permissible to consider for applicants for rental places:

  • Credit history;  
  • Income; 
  • History of non payment on rent;  
  • Prior bankruptcies; 
  • References; 
  • Some types of criminal conviction and;  
  • Pets.

When Do I Need to Contact a Property Discrimination Lawyer?

If you are thinking about renting a property or purchasing a property. You need to be aware of the possible indications of any discriminations in obtaining that rental space or that single family home. 

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any of the processes in obtaining your home, it would be recommended to seek a real estate lawyer to figure out how to proceed and what actions to pursue.