Currently, there are several federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in the context of buying property. Of these statutes, the most commonly applied is the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlaws discrimination on the basis of any of the following seven categories: 

What Is Prohibited under the Fair Housing Act of 1968?

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it unlawful to commit any of the following acts against a person based on their affiliation with any of the previously mentioned groups of people: 

  • Sale or Rental of Residential Real Estate – Refuse to sell, rent or otherwise make unavailable or deny any dwelling
  • Advertising residential Real Estate – Make print, publish, or cause to be made, printed or published, a notice, statement or advertisement relating to the sale or rental of housing that indicates a preference, limitation or discrimination
  • Block-Busting – Persuade or attempt to persuade, for profit, a person to sell or rent their dwelling by making representations about the present or future entry into the neighborhood of one or more of the protected groups
  • Loans or Other Financial Assistance – Discriminate in the making or purchasing of loans or providing other financial assistance
  • Brokerage and Appraisal Services – Discriminate in the brokering or appraisal of residential real estate
  • Participation in Real Estate Organizations – Deny access to, or establish different terms and conditions for, membership or participation in any multiple listing service, real estate brokers’ organization or other service, organization or facility relating to the business of selling or renting of dwellings
  • Intimidation, Coercion and Threats – Intimidate, coerce, threaten or interfere with a person in one of the protected classes in enjoyment of rights conferred by this act

Exemptions to the Fair Housing Act of 1968

The following are the four established exemptions to the Far Housing Act of 1968: 

  • A single family house sold or rented by the owner, provided that the owner does not own more than three residences and does not advertise in a discriminatory fashion
  • Dwellings units or rooms in a building of four or fewer units provided the owner of the building occupies one of the units as his residence
  • A dwelling owned or operated by a religious organization or non profit organization
  • Lodging owned and operated as a private club as an incident to its primary purpose and not for a commercial purpose

Enforcing the Fair Housing Act of 1968

The following are the most common means by which to enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1968: 

  • Administrative complaints – A person may file a written complaint with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Private Lawsuit
  • Lawsuits in Pattern or Practice Cases – The U.S. Attorney General may initiate a civil lawsuit in any federal district court if they have a reasonable belief that a person has engaged in discriminatory practices

Should I Contact an Attorney about My Discrimination Claim?

If you belong to one of the groups mentioned above, and have been subjected to one of the following prohibited practices, it may be helpful to seek the advice of a real estate attorney who specializes in discrimination suits. Due to the complex nature of this area of law, the help of an attorney who specializes in this field may help determine the success of your case.