Racial discrimination in Housing: FAQ

What type of housing discrimination is illegal when it comes to rental properties?

The Fair Housing Act and its amendments at the federal level (title 42, sections 3601 to 3619, and 3631 of the Code of the united States) and many state and local laws prohibit a landlord your choice of tenants according to certain criteria. A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant for the following reasons:

  • Race or color
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Disability or disability, including a physicalor mental impairment
  • Sex, including sexual harassment
  • Familial status (includes protection for people who are pregnant or with children under the age of 18 years)

In addition, state and local laws against discrimination in housing may provide protection beyond the federal laws, such as the protection for sexual orientation, age and marital status.

What type of housing discrimination prohibited the Fair Housing Act at the federal level?

Lessors should be treated equally to all tenants. Unlawful discrimination occurs when the landlord:

  • Refuses to rent to members of certain race
  • Denies the availability of housing available for rent or drift off to tenants at a certain area depending on your race
  • Provides for unjustified restrictions on the amount of people that can live in the rental unit
  • Includes preferences or limitations in a rental ad
  • Stipulates terms or standards for certain tenants
  • Terminates a lease on the basis of a reason-discriminatory
  • Provides services or facilities only to certain tenants
  • Demands sexual favors or creates an environment sexually hostile
  • Refuses to make reasonable adjustments to a lessee disabled
  • It does not prevent another renter makes discriminatory remarks, bullying or threatening a person in a protected category

The Fair Housing Act applies to any person dealing with tenants and potential tenants, including real estate agents, real estate owners, landlords and administrators. Even if the owner of the property did not discriminate personally to tenants or prospective tenants, the landlord may be liable for violations of civil rights of their employees.

If you believe you have been the victim of a civil rights violation, speak with a lawyer who specializes in civil rights.

What properties are exempt from the Fair Housing Act at the federal level?

The Fair Housing Act does not apply to all rental properties. Among the properties exempted include:

  • Senior housing: housing qualifies for this exemption if 1) the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the united States (U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) has made the decision that the housing is designed for and occupied by elderly residents, according to a local program, state or federal, 2) all residents are age 62& years, or 3) at least one person over 55 years of age resides in 80 percent of the occupied units and the public are aware that the housing unit intends to provide asylum to people over the age of 55 years
  • For owner-occupied dwellings: An owner lives in a building with four units or less
  • Some owners of single-family homes: A single family dwelling is owned by the individual and is rented without using a real estate agent or a discriminatory advertisement
  • Some housing owned by religious entities and private clubs: Housing that limit occupancy to members

However, state and local laws against discrimination in housing may apply to real property exempt at the federal level.

What are the legal reasons by which a landlord can reject a potential tenant?

A landlord must base their choice of tenants on pre-established criteria and of objective nature. A landlord can refuse prospective tenants on the basis of a selection process that requires all tenants to undergo the same application process. A landlord can contemplate the following when selecting a tenant:

  • Credit history
  • Income
  • A history of non payment of rent
  • Prior bankruptcies
  • References
  • Some types of criminal convictions
  • Pets

How do I file a claim for discrimination in respect of housing with HUD or a local body, or state?

A lessee or potential lessee may file a claim with HUD if there was a possible violation of their rights under the Fair Housing Act. It is necessary to submit the claim within one year of the alleged discrimination. The HUD will conduct an investigation to determine whether to dismiss the action or attempt to reach an agreement, “settlement” between the parties. If conciliation is unsuccessful, a judge will conduct an administrative hearing to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that there was a discrimination. If the court determines that discrimination has occurred, may issue an injunction and to award compensation for damages to the tenant.

Instead of bringing the case to an administrative hearing, the tenant or the landlord may choose to litigate the case in the federal court of first instance by the office of the prosecutor. A district court may grant the tenant injunctive relief and award compensation for damages.

Due to that the areas of state and local also have anti-discrimination laws, a tenant can file a complaint with the agency concerned. According to the state and local laws, the deadline for filing a lawsuit may be different than deadlines for federal. Usually carried out the same research and the same attempts of conciliation in the research state or local.

How a tenant or potential tenant can sue the landlord for discrimination in a federal or state court?

Within two years of an alleged violation, a person may bring a private action in a federal or state court even if the discriminatory act took a complaint with HUD. If you have not reached a conciliation agreement, or has not conducted an administrative hearing, a court can preside over the case. A finding of discrimination may result in an indemnification by the renter damages, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney fees.

How can I Get the Help of a Lawyer?

If you believe you have been the victim of a violation of civil rights, the first step is to talk with a lawyer who specializes in civil rights. A qualified attorney will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain the options you have at your disposal to ensure the best possible outcome.

Watch video Exposing Housing Discrimination: A Conversation with Marge Turner and Justin Carter

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