Understanding The Fair Housing Act

As a U.S. Citizen you can help protect your rights by learning about The Fair Housing Act and how discrimination can effect you as a home owner or real estate representative.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 is a federal law of the United States prohibiting discrimination in housing. It has a wide spread effect on homeowners, renters, apartment managers and anyone working within the real estate industry. As a U.S. Citizen you can help protect your rights by learning about this law and how it can effect you.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act specifically deals with discrimination based on race, national origin, color or religion but in 1974 an amendment was added that also includes any discrimination on the basis of sex as well.


One of the most likely places the Fair Housing Act is violated by everyday citizens is in their personal newspaper advertising. The act specifically states that it is illegal "to make, print, or publish and notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin or an intention to make any such preference"

As you can see from this statement it is illegal for a apartment complex to advertise that the owner prefers to rent to "male" college students or for a sign to specify that a "Christian" renter is wanted. Exemptions are given to religious organizations and private clubs that provide lodging to members and not for commercial purposes. Exemptions are also given to an apartment building containing not more than 4 apartments provided the owner occupies one of the apartments as a personal residence.

Although Licensed professionals are the primarily held responsible when they break this law, all U.S. citizens should be familiar with the Fair Housing Act and practice it in their own real estate advertisings as well.


The Fair Housing Act specifically states that there will be fines for illegally blockbusting and steering. These terms are well known among real estate developers and agents. Steering is when a real estate representative directs or "steer's" prospective minority purchasers to specific area's of the city where their ethnic or racial color is primarily living.

Blockbusting is similar in that it is illegal for to induce property owners to sell their property by saying or implying that other people of a specific race, color, sex, religion or national origin are moving into the area.


Lending institutions must also abide by the Fair Housing Act. Prior to the enactment of the law, some institutions would red-line specific area's mapped out in cities and refuse to loan to those high risk area's based on where the minorities lived.

The law is very specific in stating that it is also illegal "to discriminate against him in fixing the amount, interest rate, duration or other terms or conditions of such loan or other financial assistance."


Although there are a few special exemptions, the following acts are also prohibited.

You can not refuse to sell, rent, offer for inspection a home, or even refuse to negotiate the sale of real estate on the basis of color, religion, race, sex or national origin.

For example, if you are selling your home and refuse to accept an offer from a buyer because of their race or religion you are in violation of the law. It is also illegal to tell a rental applicant that an available apartment is "not available" for inspection because the applicant is male when instead you are looking for a female renter. Perhaps a rental deposit is one month for white residents, two months deposit for any other race...this would be obvious discrimination as well.


There are several exemptions to the violations mentioned above and if you feel that you have been illegally dealt with, you will need to thoroughly read the actual Fair Housing Act and all exemptions prior to charging anyone with wrong doing.

Enforcement of wrong doing is administered by filing a complaint through your local office or Equal Opportunity of the Department of Housing and Urban Development also known as HUD. Hud has the option of handling the complaint itself or can refer the case to the U.S. Attorney General. Citizens also have the option of bringing a civil suit in Federal District Court within 180 days of the alleged violation.

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