Fair Housing for Renters

Fair Housing For Renters



  • Examples of things that might indicate unlawful rental discrimination is occurring could include (but are not limited to):
  • Lying about or misrepresenting the availability of housing when housing is available
  • Requiring different terms or conditions based solely on a household member's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability
  • Advertising that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability
  • Harassment or intimidation such as verbal threats, vandalism, or unwanted sexual advances
  • A refusal to make reasonable accommodations for a person with disabilities
  • Being steered to properties, buildings, or units on one side of a complex based solely on factors related to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, regardless of other available options

In addition to rights under the Fair Housing Act (www.justice.gov) which are further described on the Fair Housing 101 page, 

Additional resources may be available to you through your local Legal Aid Office or through one of HUD's approved rental counseling programs (hud.gov). Many Legal Aid Offices also operate legal clinics or hotline services to better serve the public. 

For information related to requesting reasonable accommodations or entering a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, access the Equal Rights Center's Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications Toolkit (www.equalrightscenter.org).

What Can I Do If My Rights Are Violated?



If you believe your rights under the Fair Housing Act have been violated, visit our How To File a Complaint page.

Common Fair Housing Concerns



Families with Children



Other than Owners who are qualified to receive an exemption under HOPA, no Owner is allowed to discriminate based on familial status. These protections cover all families in which one or more children under 18 live with:

  • A parent,
  • A person who has legal custody of the child or children,
  • The designee of the parent or legal custodian with the parent or custodian's written permission,
  • Pregnant women, or
  • Anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.

If a landlord is refusing to rent to you for these reasons, has included different terms or conditions in your lease or required different terms or conditions at the time of application (e.g., higher deposit or rent based solely on your household status), has separate house rules for children or families with children, or has advertised the housing unit as for "adults only", your rights may have been violated under the Fair Housing Act.

Occupancy Standards



HUD has issued guidelines regarding occupancy standards that may violate fair housing laws because of adverse impact on families with children.

Steering



It is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to discourage any person from inspecting or renting a dwelling because of certain protected characteristics, or to assign any person to a particular section of a community or to a particular floor of a building because of those characteristics. Examples of steering could include:

  • Families with children are not allowed to live on the top floor of the development
  • Being told that you should live in one building rather than another because you will be closer to other tenants of the same race or national origin
  • Students and families with children are assigned to units on one side of a complex while single and older persons are assigned to units on another side
  • Being discouraged from renting an available upstairs unit based on your status as a person with a disability

Reasonable Accommodations



A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, or practices that may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling, such as assistance in filling out a rental application or allowing a unit transfer. This could also include reasonable structural modifications or changes like (but not limited to):

  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom
  • Widening doorways
  • Removing under-the-counter cabinets
  • Installing ramps
Requests can be made orally or in writing and are not required to be entered on specific forms, though management may provide a form for this purpose.

It is a violation of fair housing law to discriminate against applicants or residents because of their disability or the disability of anyone associated with them and to treat persons with disabilities unfavorably as a result of their disability. Housing providers may not refuse residency to persons with a disability or place conditions on their residency because a person with disabilities may require a reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodation requests may include (but are not limited to):

  • Requesting to keep a service or companion animal despite a "no pets" policy
  • Requesting a unit transfer from an upper floor to a ground floor unit because of a mobility disability
  • Requesting interpreters or auxiliary aids to effectively communicate with management because an applicant or tenant is hearing impaired
  • Requesting that carpeting be removed from a unit or that maintenance staff not use certain chemicals inside or near a unit due to severe respiratory disabilities
  • Requesting a reserved parking space close to a unit because of a mobility disability
View the HUD-DOJ Joint Memos on Reasonable Accommodations (PDF) (www.hud.gov) or Reasonable Modifications (PDF) (www.hud.gov).

HUD and DOJ have also provided guidance on service animals through the release of HUD Notice 13-060A (hud.gov) and DOJ's ADA Service Animal Fact Sheet (www.ada.gov). Service animals are not treated as pets under the law and are not required to be certified. Because they are not pets, residents with a disability who have a service animal are not required to pay a pet deposit or other associated pet fees and service animals are not subject to type, breed, weight, and size restrictions established by the property's tenant selection and eligibility criteria. A request for a service animal may be denied, however, if there is reliable, objective evidence that an assistance animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

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