What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

As moving season winds down, we would like to take a moment to review one of the most important real estate laws in existence. The Fair Housing Act, landmark legislation that passed 50 years ago, is an essential part of renting and buying real estate in the United States. If you searched for a new home this summer, you likely saw the Equal Housing Opportunity logo on a landlord’s, real estate agent’s, or lender’s paperwork. This federal law, however, is more than just a logo.


Also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson just days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The act itself prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familiar status. At the time when the act was signed, overt housing discrimination was a massive problem throughout the country. The segregation of whole neighbors and the outright rejection of qualified renters based on race made several parts of the country inaccessible to people of color.


Though the act passed, discrimination in the housing market continues to be an unfortunate reality. According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, over 25,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed in 2017. Over half of the complaints were based on disability, while around 20 percent were based on race. However, these numbers reflect only the reported incidents. The NFHA estimates that over 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur annually.


So, what does housing discrimination look like? Here are a few examples of discrimination people in protected classes have encountered.

  • A real estate agent tries to “steer” a buyer away from a certain neighborhood
  • A landlord tries to avoid renting to someone by saying the unit has been rented
  • A property management company refuses to rent to a family with children
  • A landlord evicts a person of color for a reason they wouldn’t evict a white tenant for
  • A landlord refuses to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant who is disabled.


If you have been discriminated against, you can take action by filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can also file a complaint with local housing resources, which can be found through the NFHA.

Rachel Richardson

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