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Fair Housing Claims

July 19, 2023 1:52 am

Fair Housing Claims

The federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) , found at 42 U.S.C. 3604 et seq., makes it unlawful for a housing provider to discriminate against an applicant or a tenant of housing because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity or sexual orientation), familial status or disability status (of themselves or someone associated with them.)  These are known as “protected classes” or “protected categories.”

The FHA covers most housing.  Per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) the FHA only exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

HUD’s website found at lists the following as unlawful practices based on protected class or category:

  • Refusing to rent or sell housing
  • Refusing to negotiate for housing
  • Otherwise making housing unavailable
  • Setting different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Providing a person different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely denying that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental
  • Making, printing or publishing any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination
  • Imposing different sales prices or rental charges for the sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Using different qualification criteria or applications, or sale or rental standards or procedures, such as income standards, application requirements, application fees, credit analyses, sale or rental approval procedures or other requirements
  • Evicting a tenant or a tenant’s guest
  • Harassing a person
  • Failing or delaying the performance of maintenance or repairs
  • Limiting privileges, services or facilities of a dwelling
  • Discouraging the purchase or rental of a dwelling
  • Assigning a person to a particular building or neighborhood or section of a building or neighborhood
  • For profit, persuading, or trying to persuade, homeowners to sell their homes by suggesting that people of a particular protected characteristic are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting)
  • Refusing to provide or discriminate in the terms or conditions of homeowners insurance because of the race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
  • Denying access to or membership in any multiple listing service or real estate brokers’ organization
  • Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification.

The FHA also protects against discrimination to persons in protected classes or categories in mortgage lending.  Illegal acts include

  • Refusing to make a mortgage loan or provide other financial assistance for a dwelling
  • Refusing to provide information regarding loans
  • Imposing different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
  • Discriminating in appraising a dwelling
  • Conditioning the availability of a loan on a person’s response to harassment
  • Refusing to purchase a loan

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to harass persons because of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, familial status, or national origin. Among other things, this forbids sexual harassment. In addition, it is illegal discrimination under the FHA to:

  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise the right, or
  • Retaliate against a person who has filed a fair housing complaint or assisted in a fair housing investigation

Many states and local jurisdictions also have laws or ordinances that broaden the protections afforded to applicants or tenants of housing and include areas such as  “source of income” or “marital status.” 

A mediator or arbitrator whom you select to hear and help resolve your Fair Housing dispute should be knowledgeable in these areas and also understand the burdens of proof that both the applicant/tenant and the landlord/property manager must meet if the claims must be tried.