Renters Together LFK

Fair Housing & Discrimination

Origins of the FHA

The Fair Housing Act was a major part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Minorities were excluded from housing in specific neighborhoods through formal and informal practices. Legislators were convinced that housing segregation would undermine other parts of the civil rights agenda. (They were right!)

The FHA was written to outlaw specific types of discrimination against specific groups called "protected classes."

    Federally protected classes

  • Race
  • Color
  • Nationality (FYI, it's illegal for a landlord to threated to call ICE on you)
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Family status
  • Religion

    Locally protected classes

  • Sexual orientation
  • Ancestry
  • Age
Some states and municipalities extend protections based on: military discharge, and source of income (i.e. Section 8 Vouchers). Lawrence does not.

What is discrimination?

  • Refuse to rent/sell housing, or to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable or deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting)
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

FHA violations

Violations can come with actual and punitive damages, paid by the landlord or leasing company responsible. Damages can be financial or related to policy and procedure. Both rental policies and advertising have to comply with FHA.

Refusing housing to someone based on their membership in a protected class is not the only kind of housing discrimination. Some less-obvious examples include:

  • Offering houseing on different terms to different people (larger deposits, for example)
  • Offering only certain units or rooms to different people
  • Using language or imagery in ads or tours that would discourage someone from moving in or applying to rent
  • "Steering," or guiding residents to specific locations based on a protected class, like:
    • Making families with children live in one area
    • Forcing disabled persons to live in a certain area
    • Only showing certain units to an applicant

Disabilities and the FHA

"Disability" in regards to discrimination and the FHA has a legal definition. So who legally counts as having a disability? If you have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such a disability, or, are regarded as having such a disability.

Disabilities include: hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex, and developmental disabilities

Landlords MAY NOT refuse to let persons with disabilities make reasonable modifications to their rooms or common areas, at their own expense, to make the housing usable, or refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, or practices for the disabled person to use the housing.

What to do if you've been discriminated against

Housing discrimination is no trivial matter. In Lawrence, if your landlord has engaged in any of the behavior outlined here, or if you think your landlord has discriminated against you in any way, you have three options. You can GO to the Lawrence human Relations Division at 1 Riverfront Plaza, CALL the Human Relations Division at (785) 832-3310, or FILL OUT this housing discrimination intake form.