Right & Rules

Right & Rules

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Under federal and state anti-discrimination laws it is illegal to discriminate in housing sales or rentals or in housing lending and insurance on the basis of:

These characteristics are called «protected classes»


National origin




Sexual orientation

Military history


Family status

(families with children, single parents, unmarried parents)

Source of income

a housing subsidy (Section 8)and/or receive welfare or some other public assistance 

It is illegal to:

  • Refuse to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing on the basis of the characteristics of a protected class;
  • Make housing unavailable or deny that housing is available;
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for the sale or rental of housing;
  • Deny or make different terms or conditions for a mortgage, home loan, homeowners insurance or other real estate related transaction;
It is illegal to advertise housing for rent or sale in a way that is discriminatory.

It is illegal to «blockbust for profit»; persuading owners to sell their homes by telling them minority groups are moving into the neighborhood.

It is illegal to threaten, coerce or intimidate anyone attempting to exercise his or her fair housing rights.

Examples of behavior that may be housing discrimination:

  • You call and get an appointment to look at a house, but when you get there, you are told that the house was just sold.
  • You are told that the apartment has been rented, but it is listed in the paper again.
  • You are told a higher selling price than what was advertised, or what you hear others being told.
  • You are told that they cannot rent to families with children because the house has lead paint.
  • You are told that only married couples can purchase the unit.
  • You are given different terms or conditions for signing a lease than other applicants.
  • You are told that you can’t or shouldn’t buy the house because the neighbors might be unfriendly, or they many not accept families like yours.
  • You are only shown homes in certain parts of town.
  • You are not given the opportunity to negotiate.

What housing is covered?

  • Single-family homes owned by private persons when a real estate broker and/or discriminatory advertising is used to rent or sell the home;
  • Single-family homes not owned by private persons (such as corporations or partnerships), even if a broker is not used to rent or sell the home;
  • Owner occupied multi-family buildings when a real estate broker and/or discriminatory advertising is used to rent or sell the home;
  • Multi-family buildings with four or fewer units, if the owner does not live in one of the units;
  • Multi-family buildings with five or more units, including rooming houses.

Homeseekers have the right to expect:

  • Housing in their price range to be made available without discrimination;
  • Equal professional service; the opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices; no discriminatory limitations on communities or locations of housing;
  • No discrimination in the financing, appraising or insuring of housing;
  • Reasonable accommodations in rules, practices, and procedures for persons with disabilities;
  • Non-discriminatory terms and conditions for the sale, rental, financing, or insuring of a dwelling;
  • To be free from harassment or intimidation for exercising their fair housing rights.

General guidelines to avoid discriminatory actions:

  • Agents in a real estate transaction, licensed brokers or salespersons are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of protected class. A request from the home seller or landlord to act in a discriminatory manner in the sale, lease, or rental cannot be legally fulfilled by the real estate professional.
  • Home sellers and landlords have a responsibility and a requirement under the law not to discriminate in the sale, rental, or financing of property. Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot establish discriminatory terms or conditions in the purchase or rental; deny that housing is available only to persons in a protected class; or instruct an agent or broker to convey such limitations to potential applicants.
  • Even when illegal discriminatory actions are not intentional, they are still illegal.
  • If you offer options to one applicant and not to another based on their membership in a protected class, it is illegal discrimination.
  • If you make assumptions about potential tenants or clients — about their ability to pay, about their likelihood of being «good» clients, about their potential for causing problems — based on their race, disability, accent, family size, etc. — that is illegal discrimination.

To avoid breaking the law:

  • Treat everyone alike.
  • Provide consistent and complete information to everyone.
  • Make decisions based only on objective criteria.
  • Do not make credit assumptions based on non-credit factors.
  • Know the law.