The Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibits landlords from discriminating against applicants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability. Various Executive Orders cover more details, such as requiring federal agencies to promote and further fair housing in the programs and prohibiting discrimination in the sale or leasing of properties owned by the federal government or provided with federal funds.
The FHA covers most housing in this country, but there are certain exemptions in some circumstances. If you need to know if your circumstances qualify for an exemption, check with your attorney.
Specifically prohibited actions based on the definition of the FHA in leasing situations include:
- Refusing to rent housing
- Making housing unavailable
- Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for rental of a dwelling
- Providing different housing services or facilities
- Falsely denying that housing is available for inspection or rental
It is also illegal to threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising or assisting others to exercise their rights under the FHA, and to advertise or make a statement that indicates any limitation to housing or preferential treatment in offering housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability.
In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants with physical and mental disabilities, and requires them to allow reasonable modifications to the dwelling unit to accommodate their disability. This can be done at the tenant’s expense, and, where reasonable, you may require that they return the unit back to its original condition when they move out. For example, allowing a disabled tenant special parking when requested is required.
Remember, you are within your rights when screening tenants prior to leasing. For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to checkpointscreening.com. You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants.
However, the FHA does not require that landlords make housing available to persons who are direct threats to the health and safety of others or who use illegal drugs.