What Is Fair Housing?
Fair housing is the right to choose housing free from unlawful discrimination. Federal, state and local fair housing laws protect people from discrimination in housing transactions such as rentals, sales, lending, and insurance.
It ensures access for everyone.
Fair housing is the key to all people having the roof they want over their heads. It guarantees that regardless of your age, race, religion, family situation, or level of ability, you have the right to choose the housing that’s best for your needs—with no outside preferences or stereotypes being imposed.
It encourages neighborhoods to put out their welcome mat.
Fair housing practices help people understand what it means to be a welcoming and vibrant neighborhood. The ideas, connections, and sense of pride that are found in diverse and open neighborhoods make a real difference, especially in the midst of tough economic times.
It enhances our community’s curb appeal.
Equal access to housing goes hand in hand with quality of life. Fair housing plants seeds for economic development, talent retention, and more in our community. When people feel welcomed, they make themselves at home, invest their resources back into the community, and in turn make it an appealing place for diverse and talented people to come.
Who is protected by fair housing laws?
Fair housing laws protect all individuals seeking housing, including renters, homebuyers, persons obtaining a mortgage or homeowners insurance, and others. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of the following "protected classes":
• National origin
• Gender (including sexual orientation and gender identity)
• Disability or
• Familial status (presence of children under the age of 18 and pregnancy).
Also, the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act extends the protections afforded by the Fair Housing Act, and further prohibits discrimination in housing because of:
• Marital status or
Finally, some cities and local governments have enacted fair housing ordinances which further expand upon fair housing protections, and may prohibit discrimination in housing because of:
• Source of income
• Sexual orientation
• Gender identity
• Gender expression
• Medical Condition
• Weight or
• Public assistance recipient status
Click here for links to federal, state and local fair housing laws.
What Housing Is Covered by Fair Housing Laws?
Fair housing laws cover most housing, including apartments, single-family homes, condominiums, manufactured homes, and others. In some circumstances, the laws exempt owner-occupied buildings with no more than two/four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
Which Housing Providers are Subject to Fair Housing Laws?
• Real estate operators, brokers, and agents
• Multiple listing services/real estate related organizations
• Builders, contractors, and developers
• Owners of building lots
• Condominium associations
• Homeowners advertising and selling their homes
• Savings & Loans associations, banks, mortgage brokers, other financial institutions and appraisers
• Owners of investment properties
• Rental managers/leasing agents
• Advertising media, advertising agencies and marketing companies
• Insurance companies who sell homeowners or renters insurance
What Is Prohibited?
In the sale and rental of housing, no one may take any of the following actions based on a protected class:
• Refuse to rent or sell housing,
• Refuse to negotiate for housing,
• Make housing unavailable,
• 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), or
• 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.
In mortgage lending, no one may take any of the following actions based on a protected class:
• Refuse to make a mortgage loan,
• Refuse to provide information regarding loans,
• Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees,
• Discriminate in appraising property,
• Refuse to purchase a loan, or
• Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.
In addition, it is illegal for anyone to:
• Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right, or
• Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), familial status, or disability. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
Fair Housing Protections for People with Disabilities
If you or someone in your family:
• Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
• Have a record of such a disability or
• Are regarded as having such a disability
Your housing provider may not:
• Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
• Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
Example: A building with a "no pets" policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.
However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.
Requirements for New Buildings
In buildings that are ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units:
• Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
• Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
All units must have:
• An accessible route into and through the unit
• Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls
• Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and
• Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
If a building with four or more units has no elevator and will be ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units. These requirements for new buildings do not replace any more stringent standards in State or local law.
For more information on the Fair Housing Act's Design and Construction requirements, visit Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST.