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What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on specific protected characteristics. It was passed by Congress in 1968 as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act and has been amended several times since then.

The law applies to most housing transactions and makes it illegal to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale or rental of a dwelling or the provision of services or facilities in connection with a such dwelling because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for landlords, property managers, real estate agents and brokers, lenders, and others involved in housing transactions to:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing to anyone based on protected characteristics
  • Set different rental terms, conditions or privileges for people based on protected characteristics
  • Harass or interfere with anyone exercising their fair housing rights
  • Represent that a dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when it is

According to the Fair Housing Act, it is prohibited to advertise or publish any notice related to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on protected characteristics. It is also illegal to cause such discriminatory actions.

It’s important to note that the law applies to all housing, regardless of size and whether it’s publicly or privately owned, including single-family homes, apartments, condominiums, and townhouses. The law also applies to selling and renting housing, advertising for housing, making mortgage loans, and providing real estate brokerage services.

The Fair Housing Act is enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which investigates complaints of discrimination and can take action against those found to violate the law.

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