Understanding Fair Housing Laws
Fair housing discrimination in the US refers to the current and historic discriminatory practices, policies, and practices that prohibit equitable access to affordable housing. Over the past century, housing discrimination became even more severe as part of Jim Crow policies, which enforced racial discrimination.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, handicap, and familial status in housing. Although fair housing law doesn’t protect sexual orientation and gender identity, recent courts have allowed gay and lesbian families to rent homes. However, housing discrimination can occur in many forms such as refusing to rent to a person due to his or her disability, refusing to rent to a person based on his or her sexual orientation, refusing to rent to a person because of his or her pregnancy, refusal to rent to a person who has multiple children, refusing to rent to a person because of his or her marital status, and many other forms of discrimination based on income, place of residence, credit, and many other factors.
If you are a tenant, you should be able to expect the landlord to give you an adequate written statement to let you know what is expected of you, such as if you are not allowed to occupy the house and how long you will have to live in it. You should also be able to expect that you will receive a copy of your lease or rental contract within a reasonable amount of time. This document should include all terms of your lease or rental agreement, such as when you have to leave the property, when you have to move out, how much you will be charged for the rent, and what if anything you may have to do before your lease or rental agreement ends.
Landlord’s rights are also designed to protect tenants from harassment and unfair treatment. For example, if a landlord abuses his or her power by taking advantage of you by giving you bad credit or other discriminatory practices, the landlord can be held liable for these actions. A landlord is also entitled to evict you for non-payment of rent, illegal use of the property, and other types of discrimination.
Unfortunately, some states in the US still lack fair housing laws which prevents many people from being able to apply for housing grants. These include federal loans like HUD loans and Federal Housing Assistance, low-income housing grants, and state or local public housing. Many state and local governments have policies that make it difficult for people with less than perfect credit to obtain housing grants, and loans, making it almost impossible for many minorities to apply for or qualify for a grant.
To learn more about fair housing laws, contact your state Attorney General and/or Civil Rights and Fair Housing Division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You may be able to work with a HUD Office that is responsible for assisting minorities with housing discrimination claims. If you believe you are a victim of housing discrimination, you may be eligible for a fair housing lawsuit, including a private attorney to handle your case. In addition, there are agencies that can help you with your housing discrimination claim such as the Legal Defense Fund for Minorities and the American Bar Association’s Section on Civil Rights.