Fair housing is housing without discrimination. Fair housing means not being discriminated against when you rent or buy a home. It also means that everyone has a right to live in a neighborhood or community where all kinds of people are welcome.
Housing discrimination comes in many forms and is committed against many different people. Discrimination affects everyone by limiting where we can live and who our neighbors can be.
Illegal Discrimination (Prohibited Bases)
Fair housing laws protect against discrimination in housing. Discrimination is illegal if the reason for the discrimination is listed in the law. If the reason for the discrimination isn’t listed in the law, the discrimination is not illegal.
- “I won’t rent to you because you’re African.” Illegal discrimination based on national origin and possibly race and color.
- “I won’t rent to you because you smoke.” Not illegal discrimination.
It’s illegal to discriminate against or harass anyone about housing because of:
- Race, Color
- National Origin/Ethnicity
- Minor Children
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
- Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking
- Public Assistance
- Marital Status
Landlords, realtors, banks, neighbors, towns and other people can consider other things when making decisions about housing. For example, they can make sure you can afford the housing. A landlord can ask for landlord references. But they can’t refuse you housing, have different rules or assume things about you because of any of the reasons listed above.
- A landlord can’t assume that because you are a single woman, you won't be able to afford the rent.
- A condo association can’t assume that because you have a disability, you won’t be able to live on your own.
- A town can’t allow people to put up Christmas decorations at their home, but not allow others to put up decorations to celebrate Ramadan.
Anti-discrimination laws protect us all, but they don’t protect against everything we might think of as discrimination. It is legal for landlords, realtors and other people to discriminate for reasons other than those listed in fair housing laws.
For example, a landlord can refuse to rent to someone because he smokes or because she has tattoos. A condo association or landlord can refuse to allow you to have a dangerous animal, such as a dog with a history of biting, as an assistance animal.
Anti-discrimination laws only make it illegal for anyone to restrict or deny another person’s access or use of housing based on the reasons listed under “Illegal Discrimination”, above.