Understanding the Fair Housing Act as a Landlord

It is essential for landlords to be knowledgeable of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) when renting out housing. The FHA is a federal law that was implemented 50 years ago to protect individuals from discrimination, and it’s important for landlords to understand their responsibilities when it comes to renting. Understanding the Fair Housing Act as a Landlord is key, as violating it can result in serious consequences.

What is the Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

The FHA, which was passed in 1968, makes it illegal to discriminate against someone due to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. This means that landlords can not refuse to rent a space or refuse to negotiate with someone based on said characteristics.

Who Does the Fair Housing Act Protect?

The Fair Housing Act protects individuals in two ways. It prohibits landlords and property owners from discriminating against an individual and it ensures equal access to housing opportunities regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. It also applies to those who are involved in any type of housing-related service, whether it’s selling, renting, or advertising.

What is Considered Discrimination?

Discrimination can take many forms when it comes to housing. A landlord or property owner can not refuse to rent to someone based on their religion, race, national origin, or other protected characteristics, such as familial status and disabilities. Additionally, landlords can not set different rental terms, such as application fees, security deposits or rent prices, for different individuals and can not include discriminatory terms in rental agreements.

Examples of Illegal Discrimination

Some examples of housing discrimination include:

  • Compelling a tenant to occupy a unit with a roommate of the same race
  • Setting different terms and conditions for tenants of different races
  • Refusing to rent to families with young children
  • Refusing to rent to individuals of a specific religion
  • Refusing to rent to individuals with disabilities or failing to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities
  • Making statements about a preference for certain racial or religious groups when renting out housing

What are the Penalties for Violating the Fair Housing Act?

If a landlord or property owner is found to have violated the Fair Housing Act, they can be subject to penalties, which include fines, court-ordered compensation, and other remedies for individuals who have been discriminated against. Additionally, landlords or property owners can be subject to criminal prosecution if they have been found to have had the intent to discriminate.

What Happens If a Landlord Accidentally Discriminates?

Although landlords should always be aware of discriminatory practices and avoid them, accidents may still happen. If a landlord is found to have accidentally discriminated against a tenant or prospective tenant, they may be able to avoid penalties by showing that they took reasonable steps to prevent such discrimination from happening in the first place. Reasonable steps may include developing anti-discrimination policies for their organization and training employees on fair housing laws.

What Can Landlords Do to Comply With the Fair Housing Act?

In order to comply with fair housing laws, landlords can:

  • Advertise properties without discriminatory language
  • Provide equal opportunities for applicants
  • Be aware of their obligations under the FHA
  • Train personnel on the FHA
  • Utilize anti-discrimination policies
  • Include fair housing provisions in lease agreements
  • Make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities
  • Respond quickly and politely to complaints


Having an understanding of the Fair Housing Act is essential for landlords, as violating it may result in serious consequences. It is important for landlords to understand their responsibilities under the FHA and take reasonable steps to comply with fair housing laws. Adhering to the FHA allows landlords to ensure that tenants and prospective tenants are being treated fairly and have access to housing without discrimination.

What rights do tenants have under the Fair Housing Act?

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, tenants have the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or family status. This includes the right to be free from harassment and unequal treatment in terms of housing services, access to financing, or advertising. Tenants also have the right to reasonable accommodations when needed due to a disability, and the right to challenge landlord decisions they believe are discriminatory. All tenants are also entitled to a safe and livable rental environment, regardless of their protected class status.

What protections are provided under the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This means landlords and homeowners must not discriminate against people when renting or selling property. Specific protections provided under the FHA include:

– Equal access to housing choices regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This includes advertising, managing, analyzing prices and other services related to renting or selling property.

– Landlords must allow reasonable modifications to their property in order to accommodate the needs of disabled tenants. They cannot require an additional fee for reasonable accommodations or modifications, and must keep such records private.

– Property owners must allow emotional support animals, despite any “no pets” policies they may have in place.

– Landlords and homeowners must not discriminate when it comes to disclosing information or setting the terms or conditions for renting, negotiating rent, or providing services related to renting. They also must not refuse to rent or sell to a person because of their religion or sexual orientation.

– Landlords must provide reasonable accommodation for disabled persons and must make their policies and housing practices available to all people.

-Landlords must ensure that their buildings and grounds comply with applicable state and local laws regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

The FHA also states that all tenants of a rental unit must be treated equally—regardless of their protected class—with regard to such things as availability of housing, rules, and rental policies.

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