Every American has the right to rent the property he wants to live in, regardless of ethnicity, race, handicap status or family situation. Although several acts and court decisions dating back to the Civil Rights Act of 1866 made allusions to equal opportunity housing, it wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed that enforcement of fair-housing legislation was available.

Fair Housing Act Regulations

Protected Classes

Although Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, first barred renters’ discrimination on the basis of race, color or creed, it has since been expanded to cover sex, disability and family situations. Landlords may not inquire about any of these attributes during your interview or on your rental application, nor may they refuse you tenancy based on any of those conditions. In addition, it’s illegal to advertise units for rent as barring any of those situations. Age and employment status are not protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.

Other Protections

In addition to barring the outright refusal of tenancy to persons based upon protected-class status, the Fair Housing Act also prohibits real estate agents from denying to show housing and landlords from refusing to negotiate housing situations because of minority status. It’s also illegal for landlords to incorrectly claim that housing isn’t available to minorities or set different terms for rental or sale of units to minorities.


The office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is in charge of enforcing the Fair Housing Act and subsequent fair-housing legislation. If you feel as if you’ve been discriminated against in your search for housing, you have one year to file a complaint after the alleged violation, although investigations are aided by prompt reporting of your complaint. There is no cost to file the complaint and by using HUD’s online complaint form, you merely need to provide information about your identity, the location and identity of the rental agent against whom you’re filing your complaint and a description of the incident.