BuyingHome TipsSelling March 27, 2024

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act: What it is and How it Protects You

When you buy, rent or sell a home, apartment or other property, you’re entitled to certain rights under the Fair Housing Act. In honor of Fair Housing Month, let’s review this landmark legislation and what it means to you.

The History of the Fair Housing Act

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Fair Housing Act into law. It is also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The bill was under consideration by Congress for two years beforehand, however it had not drawn enough support to pass. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong advocate of fair housing. The April 4, 1968 assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. emphasized the importance of putting laws in place to protect all citizens against any form of discrimination. Congress was finally spurred into action.

What the Fair Housing Act Includes

Originally, the Fair Housing Act prohibited discrimination against buyers or renters based on race, color, religion or national origin. In 1974, the law was amended to include protection against gender discrimination, which now also includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Another amendment was passed in 1988, adding protection for families, as well as for physically or mentally disabled individuals. Some states, such as California, have expanded upon the act in their own laws to include more protected classes.

What Does Housing Discrimination Look Like?

Housing discrimination can take many forms. Some of the most common include:

  • Refusing to sell or rent housing to someone on the basis of a protected identity
  • Telling a prospective buyer or renter that housing is not available for rent or sale, even though it is
  • Changing the terms and conditions of a sale or rental
  • Advertising a preference for prospective buyers or renters of a certain race, color, religion, national origin, sexual identity or disability
  • Charging higher fees (or offering to pay less to a sellers of a certain race, color, religion, national origin, sexual identity or disability)

How Can You Protect Yourself Against Discrimination?

The Fair Housing Act provides specific rules that buyers, sellers and renters have to follow. Unfortunately, not everyone always abides by those rules. What steps can you take to protect yourself? What should you do if you feel that you are the victim of discrimination?

Know your rights. Take time to review the Fair Housing Act and familiarize yourself with its main principles. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offer detailed descriptions of the law and your rights and responsibilities as a buyer, renter or seller. Stay informed to identify any forms of discrimination as you come across them.

Talk with your agent. When working with a real estate agent, it is a good idea to have a conversation about Fair Housing. Agents are required by law to adhere to the Fair Housing Act. Make sure your agent is looking out for your best interests. Connect with a local ERA agent today!

File a complaint. HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office offers recourse for individuals and families who believe they are being discriminated against with regard to housing. Complaints can be filed online, over the phone, by mail or via email.