The passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 heralded a new era of economic opportunity for millions, protecting buyers and renters from discrimination. While many are aware of its existence, it is not uncommon to find confusion over specific protections and enforcement. As providers of housing and rental counseling, it is important to understand the key elements of the Act and how action can be taken when violations are suspected.
The four main practices prohibited by the Fair Housing Act are:
- Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- Discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in the terms, conditions, or privilege of the sale or rental of a dwelling.
- Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating preference of discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin.
- Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person’s enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.
In 1988, disability and familial status (the presence or anticipated presence of children under 18 in a household) were added (further codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).
Familiarity with prohibited practices can lead to greater success with enforcement, which has been criticized for being inconsistent at local levels. The most direct method of reporting possible Fair Housing Act violations is to contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Complaints can be filed by visiting www.hud.gov or by calling 800-669-9777. Those who are hearing impaired can register a complaint by calling TTY 800-927-9275.
Bruce McClary is Vice President of Public Relations & External Affairs with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.