The history of fair housing
What is the Fair Housing Act?
You’re required to do more
As part of your pledge to follow the Code of Ethics, you agree to follow stricter rules than those required by the Fair Housing Act.
In addition to the seven protected classes in federal law—race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin—Article 10 of the Code of Ethics says that you won’t discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Fair Housing Act protects everyone from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability—the so-called seven protected classes. Specifically, the following actions are prohibited based on someone’s membership in a protected class:
- Refusing to rent or sell housing
- Refusing to negotiate for housing
- Making housing unavailable
- Denying a dwelling
- Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Providing different housing services or facilities
- Falsely denying that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- Engaging in blockbusting practices
- Denying anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as multiple listing service) related to the sale or rent of housing
- Threatening, coercing, intimidating, or interfering with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
- Advertising or making any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
There are exemptions
Check your local laws
Communities in Texas can add to the protections afforded by the Fair Housing Act. San Antonio, for example, prohibits discrimination based on veteran status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. And Austin adds sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, student status, and age. Contact your local housing office to learn about protections in your area.
The Fair Housing Act does not apply in all circumstances. Generally speaking, the rules don’t apply to:
- Small owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units
- Single-family homes sold or rented without a broker
- Religious organizations providing noncommercial housing to a religious subset
- Certain private clubs (that favor club members over others)
- Certain housing designated for senior housing.
Consider criminal history carefully
Help consumers understand Fair Housing
Download this one-page flier that explains what the Fair Housing Act means and how it benefits everyone.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published guidance in 2016 that says a policy of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record could be discrimination, since the Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have a discriminatory effect on protected classes. HUD says that because of racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal-history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely to disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics. That doesn’t mean landlords and property managers can’t consider criminal history information when making housing decisions, but arbitrary and broad criminal-history-related bans may violate the Fair Housing Act.