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.

Fair Housing milestones


The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is enacted, which grants full citizenship rights to males born in the U.S. regardless of race and guarantees all U.S. citizens the rights to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, or convey real and personal property

April 9, 1866

President Ulysses S. Grant signs the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which among other things guarantees African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations.

March 1, 1875

The U.S. Supreme Court declares parts of the 1875 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional, including the prohibition of racial discrimination in public accommodations.


The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a Kentucky rule that prohibits African Americans from living on a block if the majority of the block’s residents are white.

November 5, 1917

The U.S. Supreme Court allows residents in Washington, D.C., to void their neighbor’s contract to sell her house because it’s being sold to an African American.

May 24, 1926

The newly created Federal Housing Administration refuses to back mortgages in certain neighbor-hoods because of their racial composition.

June 27, 1934

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that private agreements in the sale of real estate that discriminate against people of certain races cannot be enforced.

May 3, 1948

The National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing is created with the mission of eliminating housing discrimination.


New York becomes the first city to ban discrimination in private housing.

December 5, 1957

Colorado becomes the first state to ban discrimination in private housing.

September 10, 1959

President John F. Kennedy signs Executive Order 11063, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in federally funded housing.

November 20, 1962

Congress enacts the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. This includes any housing receiving federal funding.

July 2, 1964

President Lyndon Johnson signs Executive Order 11246, which authorizes federal agencies to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

September 24, 1965

President Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which among other things prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the sale, rental, or financing of housing.

April 11, 1968