5 Decades of the Fair Housing Act

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Photo credit: DonkeyHotey



Commemorating landmark law during the month of April

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) commemorates the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act by celebrating the entire month of April as Fair Housing Month. This law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability and familial status.

During the month, HUD, communities and organizations throughout the nation will host activities and help increase the public’s awareness of their fair housing rights amidst persistent housing discrimination that many are still facing. This year’s theme is “Fair Housing is Your Right: Use It!”

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, at an even to kick off this year’s commemoration, said, “This month is an opportunity to recommit to the principle that fair housing is an essential part of everything we do; every grant we make; every building we build and every community we work with. And we will go to the mat in order to ensure the right of every American to fair housing. Although the times have changes – our commitment to this work remains as strong as ever. It is at the core of our mission.”

“Fair Housing Month is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on just how far we’ve come to make our housing more equitable and how far we still have to go to end housing discrimination,” HUD Acting FHEO Assistant Secretary Bryan Greene said. “Fair housing is about giving people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and whenever this opportunity is denied, not only do families lose, our entire nation loses.”

Fair Housing Act Facts

Types of Housing Covered

Most housing is covered, but in the following circumstances, the Act may exempt:

  • Owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units,
  • Single-family housing rented or sold without using a broker,
  • Housing operated by organizations and private clubs which limits occupancy to members
    The Act Prohibits

    The following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability are prohibited in the sale or rental of housing:

  • Refusing to rent or sell
  • Refusing to negotiate
  • Making housing unavailable
  • Denying a dwelling
  • Setting different conditions, terms or privileges for rental or sale
  • Providing different housing facilities or services
  • Falsely denying housing availability for inspections, sale or rental
  • Persuading owners to sell or rent for profit (blockbusting)
  • Denying access to membership in a facility or service (such as MLS) related to the sale or rental of housing.
  • Mortgage lenders may not do any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability:

  • Refusing to make a mortgage loan
  • Refusing to provide information on loans
  • Imposing different loan terms or conditions, such as different interest rates, points and fees
  • Discriminating when appraising property
  • Refusing to purchase a loan and/ or setting different terms and conditions for purchasing a loan
    Additionally, it’s illegal to:

    Coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right

    Make any statement or advertise that indicates a preference or limitation based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. Although owner-occupied housing with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without a broker and housing operated by private clubs and organizations may be exempt by the Act in some circumstances, prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to these as well.

    Additional Disability Protections

    A landlord is prohibited from the following actions regarding a disabled person or a person with a record of or is regarded as being disabled:

  • Refusing to allow reasonable modifications to the dwelling or common use areas at the disabled resident’s expense as necessary for the use of the housing. If it’s reasonable, the landlord may allow changes only if the resident agree to return the property to its original condition when they move.
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, services or practices if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
    Fair Housing Requirements for New Buildings

  • Buildings ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, have an elevator and four or more units:
  • Persons with disabilities should be able to easily access public and common areas
  • Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
    All housing units are required to have:

  • Easy access into and through the unit
  • Light switches, thermostats, electrical outlets and other climate control devices should be accessible
  • Bathroom walls should be reinforced to allow future installation of grab bars
  • People in wheelchairs should be able to use kitchens and bathrooms.
  • If a four or more unit building has no elevator and was ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units.
  • The new building requirements do not replace any more stringent standards in state or local law. 
    Family Housing Opportunities

    A building may not discriminate based on familial status (against families in which one or more children under age 18 live with a parent) unless the building qualifies as housing for older people. In addition to parents having familial status protection, a person with legal custody of a child or children, the designee of the parent or legal custodian (with the parent or custodian’s written permission), pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under age 18.

    Housing for older persons is exempt from familial status discrimination prohibition if:

  • The HUD Secretary has determined that the housing is designed specifically for and occupied by older persons under a local, state or federal government program or
  • The building is solely occupied by persons age 62 or older or
  • The building is occupied by persons age 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units and adheres to a policy that shows an intent to house persons age 55 or older.
  • A transition period allows those who were residents on or before September 13, 1988, to remain living in the housing regardless of their age, without interfering with the exemption.


    HUD.gov. Fair Housing-It’s Your Right




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