What is Fair Housing?
There are Federal laws in place to stop housing discrimination. The main piece of legislation is the Fair Housing Act, which applies across the US.
The United States Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on:
- Race or Colour
- National Origin
- Familial Status
What does that mean?
In simple terms it's illegal to refuse to rent to (or negotiate with) someone, set different terms, provide a different service or falsely deny housing is available based on any of these.
It's also illegal to advertise or make a statement that indicates a preference based on any of these.
The law covers two main points when it comes to selling and renting housing:
- Decision making
This difference between the two is crucial. In a nutshell, there are instances when you are allowed to discriminate based on your preference but can't advertise your preference.
Do these rules apply to everyone?
No. Some people, especially those living in shared housing, may be exempt.
Live in landlords - Fair Housing laws don't cover decisions made by owners who own less that four units and live in one of the units. Therefore, live in landlords can legally discriminate based on the categories above but can't advertise or make a statement expressing that preference.
Shared housing - If someone is advertising a shared apartment or house in which tenants share a bathroom, kitchen or other common area (e.g. living room) it's OK to express a preference based on sex, but only sex.
The simple version
It's illegal to discriminate (or place a discriminatory advert) based on the categories above. The only exceptions are live in landlords (who can discriminate but not advertise their preference) and people in shared housing (who can discriminate and advertise based on sex only)
It is not illegal to state your own gender, religion, race etc in your advert as these are facts - it's just illegal to state a preference based on them.
There are also further conditions based on which state - or even county - you live in. These are usually found in Human Rights legislation and can include:
- Alienage or citizenship Status
- Gender identity and expression
- Guide dogs or support animals
- Lawful occupation
- Military status
- Political affiliation
- Student status
There are too many to list here but you'll need to check which apply. There's a handy set of links here.
It's your responsibility to understand and comply with these regulations.
Disclaimer - This is for general information purposes only and shouldn't be treated as legal advice. We recommend you consult an experienced Landlord Tenant attorney if you need specific legal advice.