What is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law passed in 1968. It prohibits discrimination in buying, renting, selling, or financing housing or when seeking housing assistance. The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, skin color, national origin, religion, sex – including gender identity and sexual orientation – disability and the presence of children.
What is the Fair Housing Act for?
The Fair Housing Act expressly prohibits discriminatory practices, policies, and behaviors among those involved in the housing rental, purchase, and finance industry. Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination by landlords, real estate companies, lending institutions, mortgage brokers, real estate agents/brokers, and even home insurance companies. The municipalities themselves must also comply with the principles of the law.
Rules for owners, property managers, developers and real estate brokers/agents
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords, real estate companies, sellers of real estate, and other agencies or individuals may not use a buyer’s or renter’s protected class characteristics as a reason for:
- Falsely claiming that accommodation is not available.
- Refuse access to real estate services or facilities.
- Refuse the sale or rental of a property.
- Refuse to negotiate for accommodation.
- Provide different terms of sale or lease that other applicants would not receive.
- Deny access to or membership in a service (such as an MLS or multiple listings service) related to housing.
- Provide different housing services or facilities.
- Ask for a different sale or rental price.
- Neglecting or delaying maintenance or repairs.
- Otherwise make the accommodation unavailable.
Rules for banks, lenders, mortgage companies and mortgage brokers
With respect to mortgages, lenders are prohibited from taking the following actions based on a person’s protected class:
- Refuse to provide loan information.
- Refuse a mortgage loan.
- Imposing different conditions or terms, such as charging different interest rates, points or fees.
- Discriminate in property valuation.
- Refuse to buy a loan.
In addition, it is illegal to threaten, intimidate or coerce people exercising their right to fair housing or to help others exercise their rights. It is also illegal to make statements or announce housing limitations or preferences based on a person’s protected status.
While most dwellings are covered, the law exempts owner-occupied dwellings of four or fewer units, single-family homes rented or sold without a broker, and dwellings operated by private clubs and organizations that limit residency to members.
Why was the FHA adopted?
The Fair Housing Act is also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It is technically part of this larger legislation.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was meant to follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968, the law augmented previous measures: one of its main purposes was to ban the breed. housing discrimination.
Race-based discrimination in housing was still a challenge in the late 1960s when the Fair Housing Act came into effect. Minorities were often excluded from specific sections of towns or communities, or were denied loans to buy or build property there. And when such obstacles were challenged, denial, hostility and even violence often ensued.
The Fair Housing Act expressly prohibits such discriminatory practices, policies and behaviors among those involved in the housing rental, purchase and finance industry. It covered discrimination, harassment, threats or retaliation against individuals because of their race or color, religion, gender, national origin, marital status or disability. For people in these categories or “protected classes”, the law also provided a remedy if they felt their rights had been violated.
Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act applies to most housing. However, there are limited circumstances in which owner-occupied buildings may be exempt if the property contains no more than four units. In cases involving a single-family home sold or rented without an agent, there are also limited exemptions. And finally, in cases of lodgings run by religious organizations or private clubs, the law may not apply.
Use of the Fair Housing Act
If you believe your rights have been violated or you may have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office (FHEO). Complaints can be filed online either in English or in Spanish. Complaint forms are also available for download in other languages and can be emailed to your local FHEO office.
It is important to know that there are time limits for filing a complaint after an alleged violation has occurred. It is best to file a complaint as soon as possible.
When filing a complaint, be prepared to provide information, including your name and address, the name and address of the person or organization you are complaining about, and the address of the accommodation or program concerned. Your complaint should also include a brief description of why you believe your rights have been violated.