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The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq., prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing on the basis of the factors such as:

  • race or color
  • religion
  • sex
  • national origin
  • familial status, or
  • disability

Under the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Justice may bring lawsuits, where there is reason to believe that a person or entity is engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discrimination.  Moreover, the Department of Justice may institute criminal proceedings, where force or threat of force is used to deny or interfere with fair housing rights.  The Fair Housing Act provides procedures for handling individual complaints of discrimination.  Victims of an illegal housing practice may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD].  They can file their own lawsuit in federal or state court.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based upon religion.  This prohibition covers zoning ordinances designed to limit the use of private homes as places of worship.  However, the Act contains an exception that allows non-commercial housing operated by a religious organization to reserve it to persons of the same religion.

It is unlawful to discriminate in housing on the basis of sex under the Fair Housing Act.  The Department’s enforcement program is aimed at landlords who create a sexually hostile environment for tenants.  The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based upon national origin.  With some exceptions, the Act prohibits discrimination in housing against families with children under 18.  The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, in all types of housing transactions.  The Act defines persons with a disability as individuals with mental or physical impairments substantially limiting one or more major life activities.  Further, the Fair Housing Act also protects persons who have a record of such impairment.  However, the Fair Housing Act affords no protections to individuals with or without disabilities who are a direct threat to other persons or property.

Inside The Fair Housing Act