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What is Covered by Fair Housing Act?

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and disability.

Federal law (which starts at 42 U.S.C. 3601 et. seq.) has 7 protected classes which are:

1.  Race

2. Color

3. National Origin

4. Sex  (including gender identity and sexual orientation)

5. Religion

6. Familial Status

7. Handicap

Basic Facts About the Fair Housing Act

What Housing Is Covered?

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

What Is Prohibited?

In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing

  • Refuse to negotiate for housing

  • Make housing unavailable

  • Deny a dwelling

  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling

  • Provide different housing services or facilities

  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental

  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or

  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service)  related to the sale or rental of housing.

In Mortgage Lending: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan

  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans

  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees

  • Discriminate in appraising property

  • Refuse to purchase a loan or

  • Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.

In Addition: It is illegal for anyone to:

  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right

  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

Additional Protection if You Have a Disability

If you or someone associated with you:

  • Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities

  • Have a record of such a disability or

  • Are regarded as having such a disability

  • Know Your Rights Under the Fair Housing Act and HUD’s Equal Access Rule Protections For Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Marital Status 

  • It is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act for any landlord or housing provider to discriminate against LGBTQ persons because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or any other reason that constitutes sex-based discrimination.

  • It is unlawful for a landlord or housing provider of a covered dwelling to deny housing because of actual or perceived HIV/AIDS status under the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • It is prohibited for a lender to deny a HUD-insured mortgage to any qualified applicant based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

  • Under the Equal Access Rule, HUD-funded homeless providers must place clients in a shelter or facility that corresponds to the gender with which the person identifies, taking health and safety concerns into consideration. Providers must also ensure that their policies do not isolate or segregate clients based on gender identity.

Housing Opportunities for Families

Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:

  • A parent

  • A person who has legal custody of the child or children or

  • The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian's written permission.


Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.

Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:


  • The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local government program or

  • It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older or

  • It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older.


A transition period permits residents on or before September 13, 1988, to continue living in the housing, regardless of their age, without interfering with the exemption.

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