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Discrimination and property rentals

Laws Against Discrimination Regarding Property Rentals

When you perform a property search, you may wonder if you will have access to every property you find. Some renters may worry that property owners will discriminate against them because of their appearance or lifestyle. However, because of the Fair Housing Act enacted by the federal government, most real estate listings will be available to you regardless of these characteristics.

Types of Discrimination

Under the Fair Housing Act, property owners cannot discriminate against renters on the basis of familial status, gender, disability, religion, national origin or race. Local and state housing discrimination laws add additional protection. For example, most state laws prohibit property owners from discriminating because of marital status, age or sexual orientation.

Examples of Prohibited Actions

Behaviors that count as discriminatory under federal law include:

  • Demanding sexual favors from tenants
  • Allowing tenants to harass or threaten members of protected categories
  • Providing facilities or services only to certain groups of tenants
  • Refusing or terminating a lease based on discriminatory reasons
  • Segregating renters based on race

Scope of the Federal Housing Act

The Federal Housing Act applies to all people who deal with prospective tenants and current tenants, including managers, property owners and real estate agents. However, the act doesn't apply to certain properties, such as certain properties owned by religious organizations, owner-occupied properties, some single-family rentals and senior housing. To qualify as senior housing, a property must have residents age 55 or older occupying at least 80 percent of rented units or all residents over age 62. Residences may also qualify as senior housing if the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has designated them as such.

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