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Housing Discrimination and Persons Identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ)

Resources on housing discrimination and persons identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ)

Persons who identify as LGBTQ and believe they have experienced housing discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can assert their rights under the Fair Housing Act by filing a complaint with HUD.   

  • HUD will accept and investigate all legally sufficient complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination because of actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation, and enforce the Fair Housing Act where it finds such discrimination occurred or is about to occur.
  • In addition, some LGBTQ persons may have claims arising under other provisions of the Act, e.g., race, national origin, color, religion, disability and familial status.
  • HUD’s Equal Access Rule also requires that eligibility determinations for housing assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by HUD be made regardless of actual or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status.

Fair Housing Act Protections from Sex Discrimination Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing and housing-related discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual harassment), familial status, and disability. A person who has experienced (or is about to experience) discrimination in housing because of sex, including their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, may file a complaint with HUD.  HUD will investigate complaints alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act on this basis. 
  • On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Bostock v. Clayton Cty., 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), which held that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Following that decision on January 20, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13988 on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. Pursuant to that Executive Order, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued a memorandum on February 11, 2021, “Implementation of Executive Order 13988 on the Enforcement of the Fair Housing Act,” which addresses discrimination because of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity under the Fair Housing Act.  Where reasonable cause exists to believe that discrimination because of sex (including actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity) has occurred, FHEO will make a determination of reasonable cause and refer the case to HUD’s Office of General Counsel for charge.  If the discrimination occurs in conjunction with discrimination because of another protected characteristic, all such bases will be investigated and charged where reasonable cause exists. Similarly, HUD will conduct all activities involving the application, interpretation, and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination consistent with the Bostock decision.

 

Examples of housing discrimination because of sex, which includes actual or perceived gender identity and sexual orientation:

  • A realtor refuses to show houses listed for sale to a potential buyer because the buyer is transgender.
  • A housing provider refuses to rent a house to a same sex couple because of their “family composition,” which is comprised of two individuals of the same sex, rather than two individuals of the opposite sex.
  • A maintenance worker employed by a housing provider subjects a female tenant to pervasive harassment because she is a lesbian.  Additional discrimination occurs when the tenant reports the harassment to the housing provider who fails to take any action to stop the harassment.
  • A tenant is evicted after the housing provider discovers the tenant has dated persons of the same sex and identifies as bisexual.
  • A same-sex couple asks a realtor to see rental units throughout the city but is only shown rental units in a part of the city known for having many LGBTQ residents.
  • A building manager refuses to authorize repairs to a tenant’s unit after observing the tenant’s teenage daughter holding hands with her girlfriend. The manager explained that he does not agree with the teenager’s “homosexual lifestyle” and that the tenant will need to make the repairs himself.   

Examples of housing discrimination against persons identifying as LGBTQ may also occur because of, or in addition to, other characteristics protected by the Fair Housing Act, e.g., race, national origin, color, religion, disability and familial status:

  • It is unlawful for a landlord or housing provider of a covered dwelling to deny housing because of actual or perceived HIV/AIDS status.
  • A housing provider may not refuse to rent to an otherwise qualified LGBTQ family with children under age 18.
     

HUD’s Equal Access Rule Protections For Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Marital Status

HUD’s Equal Access Rule requires equal access to HUD housing programs without regard to a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. Housing providers that receive HUD funding or that provide housing subject to HUD-insured mortgages, and lenders that make such loans, must comply with the Rule. Specifically, HUD has issued three program rules providing equal access to housing, that together make up HUD’s Equal Access Rule (“EA Rule” or “EAR”):

  • "Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity" This Rule requires that a determination of eligibility for housing that is assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by HUD shall be made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The rule includes a definition for sexual orientation and gender identity, and expands the definition of family in most of HUD's programs.
     
  • "Equal Access to Housing in HUD's Native American and Native Hawaiian Programs-Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity." This Rule applies the same equal access provisions from the preceding rule to HUD's Native American and Native Hawaiian programs. These programs are also required to make a determination of eligibility for housing that is assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by HUD in accordance with the eligibility requirements provided for such program by HUD, without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
     
  • "Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual's Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs Rule" This Rule ensures that all individuals have equal access to the Department's core programs, including shelters and other buildings and facilities, in accordance with their gender identity and in a manner that affords equal access to the individual’s family.  Providers that operate single-sex projects using funds awarded through the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) are required by the rule to provide all individuals, including transgender individuals and other individuals who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, with access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity without being subjected to intrusive questioning or being asked to provide documentation. This requirement includes tenant selection and admission preferences. The rule also amended the original EAR definitions for sexual orientation and gender identity.

A person who has been denied equal access to HUD-funded or HUD-insured housing by a housing provider or lender because of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status may report it to HUD by either filing a complaint or by contacting a local FHEO office.  In many instances, a violation of the Equal Access Rule will also violate the Fair Housing Act.

Examples of Violations of both the Fair Housing Act and HUD’s Equal Access Rule:

  • An underwriter for an FHA-insured lender reviews a loan application by two women; both incomes are being used as the basis for the applicants’ creditworthiness. The underwriter assumes the applicants are a lesbian couple and, as a result, denies the application despite the fact that the applicants meet all requirements for the loan.
  • A gay man who currently uses a voucher to pay his rent contacts the property owner to request to add his male partner, who is also income-eligible, to the lease so they could live together. The owner asks, “Are you gay?” and denies the request when the tenant confirms that he is gay.
  • A transgender person seeks placement in CPD-funded transitional housing. The housing staff inquire as to the transgender person’s genitalia and make statements that other residents would be made uncomfortable or unsafe by the transgender person. The transitional housing staff refuse to house the transgender person in the program.

Examples of Program Violations Under HUD’s Equal Access Rule:

  • A transgender woman sought an overnight stay at a HUD-funded woman’s homeless shelter with shared dormitory-style sleeping and shared, unlocked bathrooms.  During the intake process, the shelter staff refused to address the transgender woman as female, misgendered her, and made other statements to discredit her gender identity. The shelter staff refused to shelter the transgender woman at the woman’s shelter in accordance with her gender identity, but offered to place the transgender woman in a man’s shelter.

Know Your Rights Under the Fair Housing Act and HUD’s Equal Access Rule, for example:

How to File a Housing Discrimination Complaint

If you believe you have experienced (or are about to experience) housing discrimination, you may contact HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 to file a complaint. You may also contact your local FHEO office or file a complaint online by visiting https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint

LGBTQ Housing Discrimination Resources


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Last updated on January 19, 2022