Fair Housing Act

What is 'Fair Housing Act '

The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) prohibits discrimination in the buying, selling, rental or financing of housing based on race, skin color, sex, nationality, religion or any other protected class characteristics. Protections for persons with disabilities and/or children were added to the Fair Housing Act in 1988.

BREAKING DOWN 'Fair Housing Act '

Here is how the Fair Housing Act spells out how it defines discrimination. Landlords, real estate companies, sellers (or lenders, municipalities, insurance companies or other entities involved in housing) may not use any buyer/renter's protected class characteristics as a reason to:

  • deny the sale or rental of a property
  • provide alternate sale/lease terms, conditions and privileges to a person that other applicants would not receive
  • refuse to negotiate or falsely claim housing is unavailable
  • deny someone access to real estate facilities or services

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the chief enforcer of the Fair Housing Act, outlines additional illegal discriminatory actions related to real estate on its website.

The Fair Housing Act was introduced shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an important legislative milestone in a decade defined by profound, dramatic and controversial changes in the racial and social structure and mores of the United States. Although previous Supreme Court decisions (see Shelley v. Kraemer) had ruled in favor of equal housing opportunities for non-white Americans, many Blacks and Latinos returning from the Vietnam War found it difficult to secure housing due to race discrimination. For more, see 4 Things Landlords Are Not Allowed To Do.