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Can a Real Property Seller Discriminate against Potential Buyers?

A person subjected to class based discrimination while attempting to purchase real property has both constitutional and statutory grounds to challenge the discrimination.  The following are the most commonly invoked protections against discrimination in the purchase of real property: 

  • Equal Protection: Some of the earliest challenges to discrimination in the sale of property were based on the fourth amendment's equal protection clause.  A plaintiff bringing an equal protection challenge faces two main hurdles. First, the plaintiff must prove discriminatory intent. Second, discrimination usually needs to be clearly based on the purchaser¿s sex, race, age, religion or sexual orientation.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866: This is the oldest federal regulation dealing with discrimination in the sale of property.  You can bring a claim of discrimination if the seller had discriminatory intent.  This act only applies to race.
  • Fair Housing Act: The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of dwellings.  The act applies not only to race, but to discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Under this act you need only prove that the seller's actions had a disproportionate impact on a protected class of people.
  • State and Municipal Anti-Discrimination Laws: Many state and municipal governments have enacted fair housing laws.  They often provide broader protection than do federal law in two main ways.  First, some state and local laws provide for protection of more classes, including many groups defined by sexual preference.  Second, many state and local act do not include all the exemptions contained in the federal acts.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Discrimination Claims?

Proving discrimination can be very difficult.  An experienced real property lawyer can help you gather the evidence necessary to prove you were discriminated against.  A real property lawyer also can represent you in court and file any necessary paperwork.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-15-2012 02:28 PM PDT

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