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What Is Housing Discrimination?

The Federal Fair Housing Act and California Fair Housing Laws prohibit the denial of housing to a person based on a person’s membership in one or more protected classes. The federal protected classes are race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation), familial status, and disability.

It is illegal to discriminate against a person in the provision of housing because of a person’s membership in a protected class in the following situations:

  • the sale or rental of most housing;
  • the terms, conditions, privileges of sale or rental, or provision of services or facilities in connection with the sale or rental of most housing;
  • the advertising of a sale or rental of housing;
  • the representation of the availability of housing for sale or rental;
  • the financing or refinancing of housing;
  • the provision of real estate brokerage fees;
  • the provision of reasonable accommodation to the rules, policies, practices or services when necessary to provide persons with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling; and,
  • the provision of reasonable modification to a dwelling for persons with a disability at their expense, when necessary for the full use and enjoyment of the dwelling.

Examples of Illegal Housing Discrimination

It is illegal to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with a person in the exercise of enjoyment of rights provided or protected by fair housing laws or because a person assisted others to enjoy rights provided or protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. Examples of illegal discrimination are:

False denial of availability: advising that there are no available units when housing really is available, because of the applicant’s race or other protected class. “Sorry we just rented the last unit.”

Discriminatory terms and conditions and provisions of services or facilities: giving less favorable terms in sales or rental agreements, because of the buyer’s or renter’s race or other protected class. “The rent is $200 higher for persons with a disability or persons with friends that have a disability.”

Discriminatory advertising: indicating any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race or other protected class. “Whites only, no children or minorities need apply.”

Financial discrimination: denying any type of home loan for discriminatory reasons by lenders, including banks, savings and loan associations, insurance companies, and others. Or, giving less favorable loan terms because of the applicant’s race or other protected class. “We have a higher interest on loans for homeowners in your community.”

Refusal to permit a reasonable accommodation to the rules and regulations of the rental in order that the person with the disability may have equal opportunity to use and fully enjoy their unit. “It’s against the rules to have another person live with you, even though there is enough room and the person is needed to help you with your health needs.”

Refusal to permit a reasonable modification to the unit at the expense of the person with the disability in order that the person might have full enjoyment of the unit. “You may not install grab bars in the bathroom.”


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