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How the Fair Housing Act Impacts Renters

Unfortunately, many renters throughout the United States are not aware of the extensive laws in place that apply to them, as someone who will rent a property.

Perhaps one of the most sweeping laws that provides protection to renters is the Fair Housing Act.

According to the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to put in place “any preference, limitation or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or intention to make such preference, limitation or discrimination.”

The Fair Housing Act has been in place since 1968, and it is administered by HUD. When a complaint of discrimination is filed with HUD, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity then becomes responsible for the investigation of said complaint.

If reasonable cause for the complaint is found during the investigation, a hearing will be scheduled with a HUD administrative law judge.

Although the Fair Housing Act covers most types of properties and housing, there are instances where the Act doesn’t include owner-occupied buildings that don’t have more than four units, single-family homes that are rented without a real estate agent, and properties that are operated by private organizations that only allow their members to live in the property.

What Does This Mean for Landlords and Renters?

As a landlord, under the Fair Housing Act, an individual is required to avoid any type of discrimination. For example, it is up to a landlord to ensure that there is nothing that occurs which would place limitations on a rental property because of discrimination. A landlord, or property manager can’t put in place terms or conditions that would deny that housing is available, or advertise a property is only available to people that don’t fall into a certain category, such as a certain race or gender.

The following actions are prohibited:


  • Refusing to rent a property
  • Refusing to negotiate
  • Making a property unavailable
  • Creating different terms, conditions or privileges for the rental of a property
  • Creating different services or facilities
  • Falsely denying a property is available for rental
  • The denial of access or membership to a facility or service that relates to the renting of a property
  • Threatening, intimidating or coercing anyone who is exercising their right to the Fair Housing Act


In addition, a landlord is not allowed to do the following, under the law:


  • Refuse to let the tenant make modifications that are reasonable, which would make it usable by a disabled person
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations that may be required for a disabled person to use a property


There are specific regulations under the Fair Housing Act that apply to familial status, as well in that a landlord can not discriminate based on familial status, unless it is designated for use by elderly people. This means a family with one or more children under 18 can not be discriminated against during the rental process.

If a renter believes their rights have been violated, HUD encourages these individuals to fill out a Housing Discrimination Complaint Form.

In addition, individuals can write a letter to HUD, or contact their local HUD office by telephone. Renters who feel their rights have been violated have up to one year to file a complaint, but they encourage these people to do so as soon as possible.

HUD will need certain information during the complain process, including the renter’s name and address, the name and address of the person the claim is being filed against, the address of the property involved in the complaint, a brief description of what happened, and the date of the accused violation.


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