If a landlord discriminates against you because of your sexual orientation by not renting to you or trying to evict you, the actions you can take in response will depend on the following three factors: 

  • Whether there are legal protections in your state or city that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation
  • Whether the discrimination occurred when you applied for the rental or during your rental period
  • Whether you had a lease or rental agreement at the time of the discrimination

What Can I Do if a Landlord Refuses to Rent to Me?

There are no federal laws that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in housing at the rental stage.  But many states and several cities have passed laws that make sexual orientation discrimination in renting properties illegal.  Here are lists of the states and cities that do afford protections: 

  • California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia all have laws that prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing
  • Of these states, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Rhode Island also afford protections to transgender individuals
  • Cities that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination include Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Seattle
  • Unless you live in one of these states or cities, it is unlikely that you will be able to do anything in response to sexual orientation discrimination by a landlord, at least during the application stage

Does It Make a Difference if I Have a Lease?

Having a lease can make all the difference.  Once your tenancy has begun, your landlord can only terminate you lease if you break a clause of you lease or if you break the law.  Most leases don’t contain clauses that have anything to do with your sexual orientation or who you share your bed with.  Also, most states have abolished their fornication and sodomy laws.  So, if your lease does not contain any clauses that bear on your sexual orientation and there are no laws that prohibit your behavior, your landlord will have a very hard time trying to terminate your lease.

What if My Rental Agreement is on a Month-to-Month Basis?

If you have a month-to-month lease, you do not have the same protections of those who have a lease.  This is because with month-to-month rental agreements, the landlord is allowed to terminate the agreement so long as he provides the required amount of notice, which is usually 30 days.  Unless you live in a city or state that makes sexual orientation discrimination illegal, you don’t have many options.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Housing Problem?

Discrimination laws are constantly changing and evolving.  If you feel you have been the victim of sexual orientation discrimination in the housing context, either by your landlord refusing to rent to you or attempting to terminate your lease, you should contact an experienced real property lawyer.  A real property lawyer can help you understand the latest developments in discrimination law and can assist you in filing a claim.