Know Your Fair Housing Rights
The Fair Housing Act (Act) prohibits discrimination because of any of the following protected characteristics:
- Sex (including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (LGBTQ+))
- National Origin (country of origin or ancestry)
- Disability (a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits an individual’s major life activity or bodily function, being regarded as having such an impairment, or having a record of such an impairment)
- Familial Status (parent(s) or guardian(s) living with a child or children under age 18 or pregnancy)
A landlord cannot make the decision to evict you based in whole or in part on one of these characteristics. It does not matter that the landlord might have the right to evict you for other reasons. If the eviction decision was based in part on one of these reasons, the landlord violates the Fair Housing Act. Even if you are behind on your rent and subject to eviction, a landlord may not pick and choose which tenants to evict based on any protected characteristic.
What are some common types of discrimination?
Discrimination comes in many forms. Sometimes it is clearly stated and easy to identify but, in many instances, it is difficult to identify or hidden. Common types of discrimination include:
- Treating a person differently because of a protected characteristic
- Example: A landlord evicts a Black tenant for unpaid rent but does not evict a White tenant who has unpaid rent.
- Harassing a tenant or neighbor because of sex or another protected characteristic,
- Example: A landlord tells a female tenant he will not evict her for nonpayment of rent if she provides him with sexual favors.
- Example: A rental manager repeatedly subjects a tenant to unwelcome comments related to the tenant’s race, sex, disability, or other protected characteristic and this conduct is severe or pervasive.
- Making a discriminatory statement about an applicant or tenant.
- Example: A housing provider says she plans to evict the tenants of a particular national origin, religion or other protected characteristic.
- Refusing to make a change or exception to a rule, policy, practice, or service that an applicant or tenant may need because of a disability (called a reasonable accommodation).
- Example: A tenant with a disability is behind in his rent due to disability related medical expenses and applies to a local agency for disability-related emergency assistance. The agency gives the tenant a form stating that emergency assistance payments will start within 30 days. The tenant asks the housing provider to give an extra 30 days so the tenant can use the emergency assistance to make the rent payment. Refusing to grant this request may be an unlawful denial of a reasonable accommodation.
- Applying a policy that harms a group of people with a particular protected characteristic more than it harms others who are not in that same group, if the policy does not serve a substantial legitimate purpose or where the policy’s purpose could be accomplished in another, less discriminatory way.
- Example: A town has an ordinance requiring landlords to evict tenants when police are called to their homes multiple times. The town states that the purpose of this ordinance is to reduce crime; however, there is no evidence that the ordinance has reduced crime. A woman calls 9-1-1 multiple times for police protection because she is the victim of domestic violence. Because women are more frequently victims of domestic violence than men, this ordinance causes disproportionately greater harm to women than men. There are two reasons why this ordinance discriminates because of sex. First, it does not achieve its stated purpose, because it does not reduce crime. Second, there are many other ways to serve the purpose of reducing crime that would be less discriminatory.
What can you do if you believe your fair housing rights have been violated?
If you think your rights have been violated, you should file a fair housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can file a complaint by calling HUD at 1-800-669-977 or visiting How to File a Complaint on HUD’s website. Materials and assistance are available in other common languages for persons with limited English proficiency. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may contact the Department using the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339. You should file a complaint with HUD as soon as possible.HUD may be unable to help you if your complaint is filed more than one year after the last discriminatory act. You may also be able to file a complaint with a state or local fair housing agency. A list of the state and local fair housing agencies funded by HUD is available on HUD’s website at this link: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/partners/FHAP/agencies.
Are there any private organizations that can help you if you are facing a discriminatory eviction?
Yes, you may contact a fair housing organization in your area.HUD funds fair housing organizations to help people who are facing possible discrimination. A fair housing organization can help you in a variety of ways, such as helping you speak to your landlord, conducting an investigation, including testing, to identify discrimination, or helping you file a fair housing complaint with HUD or a state or local fair housing agency. A list of local fair housing organizations is available on HUD’s website at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/contact_fhip.
What happens when you file a complaint with HUD or a state or local fair housing agency?
If you file a complaint with HUD, you will be asked to provide facts and documents supporting your discrimination claim. HUD will also obtain facts and documents from your housing provider. Throughout the investigation, HUD will attempt to resolve your fair housing complaint with your housing provider through a voluntary process called conciliation. If HUD finds reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, HUD will issue a charge of discrimination against your housing provider. The processes used by state and local fair housing agencies are the same or very similar to the procedures used by HUD.
Can HUD or a state or local fair housing agency do anything to stop an eviction?
HUD can ask your housing provider to stop the eviction during the investigation. If the housing provider refuses to stop the eviction, HUD may be able to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to file a lawsuit in federal court to stay the eviction until the investigation has been completed. State and local fair housing agencies can take the same or very similar actions, including filing for an injunction in state court to halt an eviction while an investigation is underway.