Know Your Fair Housing Rights

La postal y la siguiente información sobre vivienda justa están disponibles en español aquí.
The postcard and the following fair housing information are available in Spanish here.

ፖስትካርዱን እና የሚከተለውን የፍትሀዊ የመኖሪያ ቤት መረጃ እዚህ ላይ በአማርኛ ቋንቋ ያገኛሉ።
The postcard and the following fair housing information are available in Amharic here.

Postcard with fair housing information. Text reads: "Know your fair housing rights. Nationwide, it is illegal to discriminate in housing based on: Race Color Sex There may be additional protections in your city or state. You can report possible housing discrimination to the Equal Rights Center. For more information, scan the QR code below. 202-234-3062 info@equalrightscenter.org equalrightscenter.org."  Reverse side of postcard reads, "Do you suspect a landlord has: Treated you differently because of your race? Sexually harassed you? Refused to rent to you because of the size of your family? Denied you because you have a housing voucher? Contact the Equal Rights Center to report possible discrimination."

We are excited to share this new resource that we designed to inform local consumers about their fair housing rights. We have physical copies available if your organization would like a supply to provide to your community. To request copies, email communications@equalrightscenter.org.

Nationwide, it is illegal to discriminate in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, or familial status (referring to the presence of children in the household). These characteristics are called “protected classes.” A protected class is simply a category by which people qualify for protection from discrimination under the law. In addition to the seven federally protected classes, in the District of Columbia it is illegal to discriminate in housing on the basis of:

  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity & expression
  • Source of income
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking
  • Family responsibilities
  • Political affiliation
  • Personal appearance
  • Matriculation
  • Place of residence/ business

In Maryland there are additional statewide protections against housing discrimination on the basis of:

  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Source of income

In Virginia, there are additional statewide protections against housing discrimination on the basis of:

  • Elderliness (55+)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Source of funds
  • Veteran status

As you can see, there is a fairly complex patchwork of protections against housing discrimination in the
DMV region. If you have any questions about which protections apply in your community, please get in
touch with us!

Fair housing laws prohibit the following activities in relation to housing-related transactions:

  • Refusing to rent or sell on the basis of someone’s membership in a protected class.
    • For example, refusing to rent to an applicant because they use a housing voucher to pay their rent could constitute source of income discrimination.
  • Applying discriminatory terms and conditions on the basis of someone’s membership in a protected class.
    • For example, requiring a larger security deposit from a family with children than from an applicant family without children would likely constitute familial status discrimination.
  • Advertising a discriminatory preference.
    • For example, an advertisement that states “perfect apartment for a mature couple” could be a form of familial status discrimination.
  • Misrepresenting availability on the basis of someone’s membership in a protected class.
    • For example, telling a Black prospective tenant that there are no apartments available, but telling a white prospective tenant that there is availability.
  • Blockbusting.
    • Historically, blockbusting refers to how real estate professionals would play on White homeowners’ racist fears by telling them that Black residents would soon be moving into the neighborhood in order to pressure White homeowners to sell their homes for below market value. It contributed to “White flight” from cities in the 1950s and 60s and deepened residential segregation. A more modern version of blockbusting could involve real estate professionals making reference to voucher holders moving into a neighborhood, even if that is not true.
  • Steering.
    • Steering is when a housing provider guides a prospective tenant or buyer toward or away from certain neighborhoods or homes based on their membership in a protected class. For example, a leasing agent or real estate agent who only shows a Latin American family homes in neighborhoods with a large Latin American population could be committing national origin discrimination.
  • Harassment, threats, intimidation, or coercion.
    • For example, refusing to make a repair for a tenant unless they engage in sexual conduct would constitute sexual harassment.
  • Retaliation.
    • For example, trying to evict a tenant for filing a housing discrimination complaint against
      the landlord.
  • And any other conduct which makes unavailable or denies dwellings.
    • For example, refusing to provide a tenant with a disability an accessible parking space. Providing a tenant with a disability an accessible parking space is an example of a “reasonable accommodation”: a change, exception, or adjustment to a housing provider’s rule, policy, practice, or service that affords a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home. A “reasonable modification” is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Failure to grant an individual a reasonable accommodation or modification may constitute disability discrimination.

If you believe you may have experienced discrimination in housing, you can contact the Equal Rights Center. To report your experience, please call 202-234-3062 or email info@equalrightscenter.org.

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