Housing Discrimination: What Landlords and Other Housing Providers Can't Do
This document explains how to tell if you've been a victim of housing discrimination.
How Do I Know If Someone Discriminated Against Me?
They Say the Housing Is Taken But It's Not
They Only Showed Me Housing in Certain Neighborhoods or Buildings
They Won't Rent or Sell to Me
They Have Different Rules For Me
I Saw an Ad That Said They Wouldn't Want to Rent to Me
Someone Threatened, Intimidated, or Harassed Me
What Can I Do About Housing Discrimination?
- Sex or Gender
- Sexual Orientation
- National Origin
- Marital Status (unmarried, divorced, civil union)
- Public assistance (Section 8, Reach Up, Food Stamps, etc.)
- Children or pregnancy
- Being a domestic violence victim
Landlords, realtors, banks, and other people can only consider certain things when making decisions about housing. They can find out whether you can afford the housing. Are you a renter? Then the landlord can also ask for landlord references. But they can't refuse you housing or have different rules for you because of a reason listed in the box above. And they can't assume things about you based on the box above.
Here are some examples. A landlord can't assume that because you are a single woman, you won't be able to afford the rent. A landlord can't assume that because you have a disability, you won't be able to live on your own. A landlord can't allow tenants to have a Christmas party but not allow tenants to have a party at the end of Ramadan.
Warning! It is legal for landlords, realtors, and other people to discriminate for other reasons. For example, a landlord can refuse to rent to someone who smokes.
Do you believe someone else was discriminated against?
Do you want to help end housing discrimination?
Call Vermont Legal Aid at (800) 889-2047.
Our services are free.
Sometimes it's hard to tell. Sometimes you just have a feeling. To prove discrimination, you have to have more than a feeling. You have to show that the person you think discriminated against you did what they did because of a reason such as race, disability, or national origin. Do you have a feeling that someone discriminated against you but you're not sure you can prove it? Call Vermont Legal Aid right away at (800) 889-2047. We may be able to help you. If you call us, we may be able to investigate what happened to see if someone discriminated against you. Please call us as soon as possible after you think you were discriminated against. We need to start looking into it right away.
Next, we list some ways that landlords and other housing providers discriminate.
Someone tells you that an apartment or other home has been taken. Later, you find out that the home was really still available when the person told you it wasn't. It could just be a mix-up. Or that person might have discriminated against you.
Faizah just got her Section 8 Voucher. She finds an apartment she can afford and the landlord agrees to rent to her. Faizah tells the landlord she has Section 8. The landlord never calls her back. The landlord may have discriminated against Faizah.
Juan is Mexican-American. He and his wife are looking for a house to buy. He sets up an appointment to see houses with a realtor. Juan sees a house he likes and can afford. He and his wife decide to make an offer. When they call the realtor, she says someone else has already made an offer. A week later, Juan notices that the house is still being advertised on the realtor's website. The realtor and seller may have discriminated against Juan.
Did someone only show you housing in certain neighborhoods or buildings? This could be housing discrimination.
Carolyn is white. She goes to see an apartment. The landlord tells Carolyn that she doesn't think Carolyn will want to live in this neighborhood. Carolyn asks why. The landlord says she has another apartment in a neighborhood Carolyn will like better. Carolyn sees the other apartment. She notices that only white people live in the second neighborhood. The landlord may be discriminating against Carolyn by assuming she only wants to live in an all-white neighborhood.
Sarah is African American. She's wants to buy a house. She goes to a realtor. The realtor only shows Sarah houses in poor neighborhoods. Did the realtor assume that Sarah could only afford to live in a poor neighborhood because she is African American? Did the realtor assume that Sarah would "feel more comfortable" living in a poor neighborhood? Maybe. If the realtor assumed these things, this is housing discrimination.
Someone won't rent to you, sell you a home, or give you a mortgage.
Mike applies for an apartment. The landlord seems interested in renting to Mike. Then Mike tells the landlord he has children. The landlord tells Mike there isn't a play area or lawn and that he thinks Mike would rather live somewhere else. This may be housing discrimination.
Janiyah's parents are from India. Janiyah is looking for an apartment. Everything goes fine on the phone. But when the landlord meets Janiyah at the apartment, the landlord rushes through showing her the apartment. Janiyah likes the apartment and says she wants to take it. The landlord says he still has some more appointments today and says he'll call Janiyah. The landlord never calls. The landlord may have discriminated against Janiyah.
A landlord makes different rules for you in your housing.
Donna lives in a mobile home park. The park has a swimming pool. The mobile home park owner lets everyone at the park swim in the pool except children. This is housing discrimination.
Sam and Judy's landlord tells them they can't put a menorah in their window or hang a mezuzah on their door. Sam and Judy's landlord lets their neighbors hang a Christmas wreath on their door. This is housing discrimination.
You read, see, or hear an ad that says or implies that they prefer or discourage certain kinds of people living in the home.
Quan is looking for an apartment for his family. He sees an ad for a three-bedroom apartment. The ad says "quiet, professional couple preferred." Quan doesn't call the ad because he believes the landlord won't want to rent to him because he has children. The landlord and the newspaper discriminated against Quan because their ad discouraged him from applying.
Tom is looking for an apartment. He sees an apartment ad. The ad has a picture of a Christian cross in it. Tom isn't Christian. Tom doesn't call because he believes that the landlord only wants to rent to Christians. The landlord and the newspaper discriminated against Tom because their ad discouraged Tom from applying.
Someone harasses you or tries to scare you away from living somewhere because they think you're "different."
Jamel is from Somalia. He applies for an apartment. The landlord says he thinks people in the neighborhood aren't used to Somalians and will make life hard for Jamel if he moves in. The landlord discriminated against Jamel by passing on a threat.
Anne's landlord says he'll lower her rent if she has sex with him. This is sexual harassment. The landlord has discriminated against Anne because she's a woman.
The other tenants in Frank's building say racist things to Frank and harass him. Frank asks his landlord to do something about it. The landlord doesn't do anything. Both the landlord and the neighbors have racially discriminated against Frank.
Housing discrimination hurts all of us. We all want everyone to have the same chance to rent or buy a home as everyone else. When landlords, realtors, banks, or others discriminate, they stop us from being able to live where we want to live. If you think that you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or in state or federal court. If you take action, you may be able to stop a landlord from discriminating against someone else. You may also be able to become a fair housing tester. Call Vermont Legal Aid at (800) 889-2047 for more information or to see if we can help with your case.
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