This summary is provided as a courtesy only and is not inclusive of all laws related to Fair Housing. For more information, please visit www.hud.gov and follow the links to Fair Housing.
HUD has played a lead role in administering the Fair Housing Act since its adoption in 1968. The 1988 amendments, however, have greatly increased the Department’s enforcement role. First, the newly protected classes have proven significant sources of new complaints. Second, HUD’s expanded enforcement role took the Department beyond investigation and conciliation into the area of mandatory enforcement.
Complaints filed with HUD are investigated by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). If the complaint is not successfully conciliated, FHEO determines whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred. Where reasonable cause is found, the parties to the complaint are notified by HUD’s issuance of a Determination, as well as a Charge of Discrimination, and a hearing is scheduled before a HUD administrative law judge.
Either party – complainant or respondent – may cause the HUD-scheduled administrative proceeding to be terminated by electing instead to have the matter litigated in Federal court. Whenever a party has so elected, the Department of Justice takes over HUD’s role as counsel seeking resolution of the charge on behalf of aggrieved persons, and the matter proceeds as a civil action. Either form of action – the ALJ proceeding or the civil action in Federal court – is subject to review in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Basic Facts About the Fair Housing Act
What Housing Is Covered?
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner- ccupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
What Is Prohibited?
In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:
• Refuse to rent or sell housing
• Refuse to negotiate for housing
• Make housing unavailable
• Deny a dwelling
• Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
• Provide different housing services or facilities
• Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
• For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
• Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
In Addition: It is illegal for anyone to:
• Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise
• Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
Additional Protection if You Have a Disability. If you or someone associated with you:
• Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
• Have a record of such a disability or are regarded as having such a disability your landlord may not:
• Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
• Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
Example: A building with a no pets policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.
However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.
Housing Opportunities for Families
Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:
• A parent
• A person who has legal custody of the child or children or
• The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian’s written permission.
• Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.
For Further Information:
The Fair Housing Act and HUD’s regulations contain more detail and technical information. If you need a copy of the law or regulations, contact the HUD Office nearest you.