Review of Equal Housing Opportunity Laws and Acts for Landlords and Tenants

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Equal Housing Opportunity
Last updated: June 21, 2004

Housing is a very important part of people’s lives and it impacts many aspects of human existence. It is for this reason that the Fair Housing Act and other federal and state laws were enacted to guarantee a right to a national housing market free from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, and national origin.

THE LAW

Civil Rights Act of 1866

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits all racial discrimination in the rental of property.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act declares a national policy of fair housing throughout the United States. The law makes illegal any discrimination in the sale, lease or rental of housing, or making housing otherwise unavailable, because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act makes discrimination unlawful with respect to any aspect of a credit application on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because all or part of the applicant's income derives from any public assistance program.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of public accommodations and commercial facilities.

State and Local Laws

State and local laws often provide broader coverage and prohibit discrimination based on additional classes not covered by federal law.

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF PARTIES INVOLVED

The LANDLORD, the TENANT/APPLICANT, and the PROPERTY MANAGER/REAL ESTATE AGENT all have rights and responsibilities under the law.

For the LANDLORD

As a landlord you have a responsibility and a requirement under the law not to discriminate in the rental of property on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. You cannot instruct the licensed broker or salesperson acting as your agent to convey for you any limitations in the rental because the real estate professional/Property Manager is also bound by law not to discriminate. Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot establish discriminatory terms or conditions in the rental; deny that housing is available, or advertise that the property is available only to persons of a certain race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

For the Tenant

You have the right to expect that housing will be available to you without discrimination or other limitations based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

This includes the right to expect:

  • Housing in your price range made available to you without discrimination;
  • Equal professional service;
  • The opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices;
  • No discriminatory limitations on communities or locations of housing;
  • No discrimination in the financing, appraising, or insuring of housing;
  • Reasonable accommodations in rules, practices and procedures for persons with disabilities;
  • Non-discriminatory terms and conditions for the sale, rental, financing, or insuring of a dwelling; and
  • To be free from harassment or intimidation for exercising your fair housing rights.

For the Real Estate Agent/Property Manager

Agents in a real estate transaction are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. A request from the home seller or landlord to act in a discriminatory manner in the lease or rental cannot legally be fulfilled by the real estate professional/property manager.

REALTORS® AND FAIR HOUSING

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has developed a Fair Housing Program to provide resources and guidance to REALTORS® in ensuring equal professional services for all people. The term REALTOR® identifies a licensed professional in real estate who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Not all licensed real estate brokers and salespersons are members of the National Association, and only those who are may identify themselves as REALTORS®. They conduct their business and activities in accordance with a strict Code of Ethics.

ETHICAL CODE OF CONDUCT

Article 10 of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Code of Ethics provides that "REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. REALTORS® shall not be a party to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin."

A REALTOR® pledges to conduct business in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Code of Ethics. Article 10 imposes obligations upon REALTORS® and is also a firm statement of support for equal opportunity in housing.