There are many things to consider when finding a home, discrimination isn’t one of them.

The ERC is excited to announce the launch of its first Fair Housing Advice Column in its home community of Greater Washington DC! We know many residents have unique experiences in their search for safe, affordable housing. Based on our 30 plus years of detecting discrimination, we also know that your search might leave you with questions and concerns about your rights and responsibilities.

As the only full service fair housing center in Greater Washington providing direct services and advocacy to residents, we are here to lend our expertise of local fair housing laws and protections, and to ensure your home search experience is a FAIR one.

We want to hear from you! Please reach out to us with your questions, scenarios and inquiries and we will be publishing some of your entries (anonymously) with responses from our expert fair housing staff.

For immediate information on discrimination and protected classes in the Greater Washington area, please visit our Fair Housing Page. Additionally, if you feel you have experienced or witnessed housing discrimination and would like to report it, please submit a lead here.

Dear Susie,

Recently, I was approved to receive temporary help with paying my security deposit and rent from Housing Counseling Services and I’ve been looking for an apartment. A couple days ago, I went to look at a place in DC and I tried to submit an application to live there. I asked the agent where I should include information about the subsidy program on the application, and she asked me what program I was on. When I told her, she said that they don’t accept temporary subsidies, only Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs). I left the office feeling embarrassed and unsure about what to do. Are they allowed to do that? What are my rights in this situation?


Embarrassed Renter in Search of a Home


Hi Embarrassed Renter,

I’m really sorry to hear about your experience. It sounds like you may have experienced illegal discrimination based on your source of income. In Washington, DC, source of income is a protected class under which you can’t be discriminated against in housing. What this means is that a landlord can’t deny you housing because of how you intend to lawfully pay your rent, as long as you meet their application requirements.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a temporary subsidy or a longer-term voucher like a Housing Choice Voucher. Just last year, the Office of Human Rights, which enforces laws about housing discrimination in DC, released this helpful guidance clarifying that point.

Also remember that the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status (whether or not kids under 18 reside in the household). Because of trends regarding who participates in housing assistance programs, landlords may engage in source of income discrimination in order to screen out tenants on the basis of these federal protections (like race or familial status). Either way, it’s illegal.

The Equal Rights Center can conduct civil rights testing in the DC metropolitan area to see if and how housing providers are discriminating. If you’d be interested in talking to us about what happened so that we can investigate, you can reach us at 202-234-3062. You can also file a housing discrimination complaint directly with the DC Office of Human Rights.

Good luck with your housing search!
Susie @TheEqualRightsCenter

Have a question about housing discrimination in the Washington DC metro? Want to a report a potential instance of housing discrimination? Contact Susie by calling 202-234-3062.

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