Housing Discrimination Against People with Vouchers in DC Is Illegal!
A Guide to New Protections Under the Eviction Record Sealing and Fairness in Renting Amendment Act
By Susie McClannahan and Nick Adjami
May 17, 2022
The information contained in this publication is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.
Housing discrimination against voucher holders in the District has been illegal for more than a decade, but in 2022, DC Council passed a new law — the Eviction Record Sealing and Fairness in Renting Amendment Act — that strengthened protections for people with housing vouchers. Since these protections went into effect, the ERC has received a significant number of calls from District residents with vouchers who have questions about their fair housing rights or who have experienced potential housing discrimination related to minimum income requirements and credit screenings. This guide is designed to answer some of the most common questions we receive and help DC residents with housing vouchers understand their fair housing rights.
Frequently Asked Questions:
 Is it illegal for landlords to discriminate against me because I use a voucher to pay my rent in Washington, DC?
 What does illegal discrimination against people with housing vouchers look like?
 Do minimum income requirements apply to people with housing vouchers in DC?
 I don’t pay any portion of my rent. Can a landlord in DC reject my application based on my credit?
 I do pay a portion of my monthly rent. Can a landlord in DC reject my application based on my credit
 How do I find out why my application was denied?
 What other legal protections exist for people with housing vouchers in Washington, DC?
 I think I may have experienced housing discrimination. How do I report it?
1.] IS IT ILLEGAL FOR LANDLORDS TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ME BECAUSE I USE A VOUCHER TO PAY MY RENT IN WASHINGTON, DC?
Yes! According to DC’s local fair housing law, “source of income” is a protected class. That means it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against you based on how you pay your rent (as long as the source of your income is lawful!).
2.] WHAT DOES ILLEGAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PEOPLE WITH HOUSING VOUCHERS LOOK LIKE?
Examples of potential discrimination towards people with housing vouchers include:
- Advertising statements like “no Section 8 accepted” or “we do not accept vouchers.”
- Charging you a higher rent or security deposit because you use a housing voucher or subsidy.
- Denying your application because you don’t meet their minimum income requirement.
- Denying you because you don’t have any income outside of your voucher.
- Denying you because of a low credit score (or for not having a credit score).
- Denying you based on missed rent payments or late rent payments that happened prior to when you first received your voucher (if the landlord knows or should have known when you first received your voucher).
3.] DO MINIMUM INCOME REQUIREMENTS APPLY TO PEOPLE WITH HOUSING VOUCHERS IN DC?
No! Many landlords require applicants to meet a minimum income requirement. Often an applicant must make 3 or 4 times the amount of monthly rent. If you have a housing voucher, a landlord for a home in the District cannot apply a minimum income requirement to you. (In limited instances, a housing provider may be required to verify an applicant’s income is below a maximum income requirement under federal law.)
Examples of potential discrimination related to a voucher holder’s income level in DC could include:
- A property manager refuses to let you apply because you don’t have any income outside of your voucher.
- Even though you have a voucher, a landlord refuses to rent to you unless you also have a job.
- Even though you have a voucher, a leasing agent denies your application based on your credit report stating that you have “insufficient income to support rent” or your “rent-to-income ratio is unsatisfactory.”
- A landlord refuses to rent to you unless you can prove you have income outside of your voucher to pay for utilities or other household expenses.
4.] I DON’T PAY ANY PORTION OF MY RENT. CAN A LANDLORD IN DC REJECT MY APPLICATION BASED ON MY CREDIT?
If your entire rent is covered by your housing voucher for the whole lease term, then it is likely illegal for a landlord to deny you based on your credit. To put this another way, if you apply for a 12-month lease term and your portion of the rent for all 12 months would be $0, then it is likely illegal for a landlord in DC to deny your application for any credit-related reason.
5.] I DO PAY A PORTION OF MY MONTHLY RENT. CAN A LANDLORD IN DC REJECT MY APPLICATION BASED ON MY CREDIT?
If you pay a portion of your rent each month, landlords can run a credit screening as part of your application. However, landlords cannot deny you based on:
- A low credit score or lack of a credit score,
- Credit issues that occurred prior to when you first received your voucher,* or
- Nonpayment of rent that occurred prior to when you first received your voucher.*
*A landlord can’t deny your application based on credit issues or nonpayment of rent that occurred prior to when you first received your voucher. This refers to when you got your voucher for the first time, not when you got issued a new voucher to conduct a housing search. For example, say you first got your voucher in 2015 and you just got issued a new copy of your voucher because you want to move and have started your housing search. A landlord couldn’t deny you based on nonpayment of rent or credit issues that occurred before 2015 because that’s when you first received your housing voucher.
6.] HOW DO I FIND OUT WHY MY APPLICATION WAS DENIED?
In Washington, DC, a landlord must provide you with a written notice of denial. The notice should state that your application was denied and also list the specific reason(s) your application was denied.
You also have a right to request all the materials a landlord reviewed when considering your application. You must submit the request within 20 days of receiving the written notice of denial. The landlord must then provide you all the application materials within 10 days of your request. They should provide you a copy of everything they considered during a review of your application, including a copy of your credit report and criminal background screening (if they checked your credit and criminal history during their review of your application). The DC Office of Human Right has published a template that applicants can use to request a copy of all their application materials.
7.] WHAT OTHER LEGAL PROTECTIONS EXIST FOR PEOPLE WITH HOUSING VOUCHERS IN WASHINGTON, DC?
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal nationwide to discriminate against someone in housing based on:
- National origin,
- Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity),
- Disability, and
- Familial status (the presence of children in the household under the age of 18).
The DC Human Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on 13 additional protected classes that are not covered by the federal Fair Housing Act, which include:
- Marital status,
- Personal appearance,
- Sexual orientation,
- Gender identity or expression,
- Family responsibilities,
- Political affiliation,
- Matriculation (being a student),
- Source of income,
- Place of residence or business,
- Status as a victim of an intra-family offense (being a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking),
- Sealed eviction record,* and
- Homeless status.*
*In 2022, DC made it illegal to discriminate in housing based on a sealed eviction record or homeless status. It would be illegal, for instance, to deny an applicant based on a sealed eviction record. Additionally, it would likely be illegal to deny an applicant based on a limited residence history because that individual was experiencing homelessness.
8.] I THINK I MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED HOUSING DISCRIMINATION. HOW DO I REPORT IT?
You can report possible housing discrimination to the Equal Rights Center by calling 202-234-3062 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The ERC may be able to offer you the following types of assistance:
- Advocacy: Advocating on your behalf with a housing provider to address possible discrimination.
- Fair housing complaint: Assisting you with filing a housing discrimination complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights or HUD and serving as your advocate throughout the administrative complaint process.
- Civil rights testing: Trained civil rights testers pose as potential buyers or borrowers to find out if and how discrimination is occurring.
- Reasonable accommodations and modifications: Assisting people with disabilities with requesting reasonable accommodations or modifications.
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 email@example.com.