The Fair Housing Act & Housing Discrimination

Moving is stressful enough without being subject to discrimination from a landlord or property owner. Whether you are trying to rent or looking to purchase a property, there are certain laws in place to protect you from acts of discrimination. If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, the best course of action is to consult an attorney to make sure you have the knowledge and documentation needed to fight back.

What Fair Housing Means

Fair Housing means that everyone has the same opportunity to be considered for leasing property, purchasing property, and obtaining a loan and insurance. The Fair Housing Act prevents lenders, landlords, sellers and insurance companies, amongst other parties involved in housing transactions, from discriminating against someone for their:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion or lack thereof
  • Nationality
  • Gender or sexual orientation
  • Disabilities
  • Familial status

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminatory conduct such as (but not limited to):

  • refusing to rent or sell a property
  • lying about availability
  • making discriminatory remarks
  • discriminatory marketing and advertisements
  • charging more for a security deposit because you fall into one of the above categories
  • changing the terms of a lease, loan or insurance contract because you fall into one of the above categories
  • retaliating, interfering or harassing someone who is trying assert their fair housing rights.
  • refusing to rent to someone who does not speak English
  • refusing to rent to someone who has an arrest history
  • charging a pet deposit for a service animal
What Types of Properties Are Covered?

The Fair Housing Act offers protections for most transactions involving residential properties, including:

  • Houses
  • Condominiums
  • Group Homes
  • Apartments
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Domestic Violence Shelters
  • Migrant Housing
  • Long term transient housing such as an Extended Stay

There are a few exceptions that apply to some housing, such as non-profit religious housing, some single-family homes, and 55+ communities. If you have questions about whether or not your situation applies, it is best to consult an attorney who is experienced in the laws of North Carolina to guide you through the complaint process.

Who Is Required to Comply?

The anti-discrimination laws of the Fair Housing Act apply to most anyone involved in housing transactions, such as:

  • Landlords
  • Sellers of property
  • Lenders for home mortgages
  • Appraisers
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Property Manages
  • Insurance Companies
  • Homeowner’s Associations
  • Condo Boards
Design and Construction Requirements

The Fair Housing Act also requires certain design and construction specifications to be met. These specifications are intended to make sure that buildings are accessible to all, including those who may have a physical disability or are confined to a wheelchair. There are seven basic requirements that every building must meet:

  1. Access to the building via an accessible route. Access to the building must be accessible to those with disabilities or wheelchair bound. The route to the building must be unobstructed and connected to accessible parking, and public streets/sidewalks.
  2. Public and common areas must be accessible
  3. Doors must be useable by all; including those who are wheelchair bound
  4. Ability to get into the dwelling unit and safely go through each unit.
  5. Environmental controls, such as lights switches, outlets and thermostats, must be accessible to all
  6. Bathroom walls must be constructed in a way that allows for later installation of grab bars. Landlords are not required to actually install the bars.
  7. Kitchens and bathrooms must be accessible to those in a wheelchair
What to Do If You Believe You Have Experienced Discrimination
  • File a complaint by contacting the Fair Housing Project
  • Keep a detailed log of any acts of discrimination. Write down the specifics of the experience. Be sure to include the dates, names of parties involved and any other relevant details. It is also important to maintain any records of communication, such as emails, text messages or letters from the discriminating party.
  • Keep in mind that you have one year to file a complaint and two years to file a lawsuit in court.

If you have experienced discrimination of any kind, it is important to consult an experienced attorney, as soon as possible, to help you navigate through this difficult time. Don’t fight back alone; one of our experienced landlord/tenant attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Additional Resources

State Fair Housing Act

North Carolina Tenant Rights, Laws and Protections