Couple unpacking in new home

Discrimination is Not Always Obvious or Apparent

Landlords and housing providers cannot deny you housing for discriminatory reasons. If you hear the following statements, it may be a sign of housing discrimination:

  • “Are you sure you can afford the rent?”
  • “We don’t have these units available for people with disabilities.”
  • “The neighborhood isn’t child-friendly.”
  • “I already rented the apartment to someone else.”
  • “You may be more comfortable in another unit/building.”

Fair Housing Laws Are Not the Same as Landlord-Tenant Laws

Landlord-tenant laws cover general rights and responsibilities of rental tenants and housing providers.

Fair housing laws protect you from discrimination and ensure that you are afforded an equal opportunity to rent the housing of your choice.

How Do I Know If I’ve Experienced Housing Discrimination?

Can a landlord ask me how serious my disability is?

No. It is a violation of the law to inquire about the nature or extent of a person’s disability.

Can a landlord tell me that my son and daughter cannot share a room?

No. A landlord should not be making decisions about bedroom and sleeping arrangements.

I have a disability and need an assistance animal. What if there is a “No Pets” policy?

If you request a reasonable accommodation, a landlord is required to allow you to have an assistance animal, as long as you have a disability and a need for the assistance animal. You may be required to provide documentation to verify this information. Assistance animals generally are not subject to “no pets” policies, pet fees or deposits, or restrictions on breed or size.

A landlord told me that they have had a bad experience with “my kind.” Can they refuse to rent to me based on past experiences?

Basing housing decisions on stereotypes of members of protected classes is illegal. Landlords must judge each applicant based on his/her qualifications.

A housing provider told me that the place is already rented, but I still see a “For Rent” sign. Is this allowed?

A landlord or housing provider must give truthful information to everyone who inquires about housing. It is illegal to give false or inconsistent information to potential renters.

A complex has an advertisement that states, “Able-bodied Only.” Is this against the law?

It is illegal to suggest a preference for a particular type of tenant because of their membership in a protected class. This includes both advertising and statements made by employees or agents of the housing provider.

What types of criteria can a landlord use to determine if I’m eligible to rent?

Housing providers may set income requirements, perform background or credit checks, or inquire about rental history, but these standards must be applied equally to all applicants. They may also prohibit behavior such as damaging property or harming other tenants.

Recommendations for Landlords & Property Managers
  • Treat all applicants alike regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, disability, military status, or sexual orientation.
  • Establish the same criteria and qualifications for all applicants.
  • Offer the same terms and conditions to all applicants.
  • Show all applicants the same type(s) of units.
  • Ensure all staff receive fair housing training.
  • Provide the same information about availability, amenities, or special offers/discounts to all applicants.
  • Develop a policy for responding to reasonable modification and accommodation requests.

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There are times when individuals question, did that just happen? When you have those moments, call The Fair Housing Center.

Diana Patton

Social Justice and Integrative Health Advocacy Coach