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Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act

Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act

Under the Fair Housing Act, potential buyers or tenants of real property are protected from certain types of discrimination based upon the buyer or tenant’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status, disability, ancestry, or national origin. Sellers or landlords cannot engage in the following actions due solely to a negative consideration of one of the protected classes:

• Refuse to sell or rent after the making of a legitimate offer;

• Refuse to engage in negotiation with the buyer or tenant;

• Represent that the property is unavailable when it is available;

• Discriminate in the terms and conditions or in providing services or facilities in connection with the sale or rental of the property.

While the Fair Housing Act offers protection from discrimination for a variety of characteristics, it is important to recognize the characteristics it does not protect. A notable example would be that a seller or landlord is wholly authorized to discriminate against a potential buyer or tenant who has a conviction on their criminal record. Which is one reason many people seek to expunge their criminal records. Further, there is no reason why a seller or landlord could not refuse to sell or lease their house to you because you graduated from a rival university or are a fan of the Chicago Cubs. This is because these are not protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act and therefore there is no claim to be made for discrimination.

Even more interesting, there are situations in which the anti-discrimination rules do not apply to a seller or landlord at all, meaning they can reject a buyer or tenant based on one of the protected characteristics. Here are the situations where the Fair Housing Act restrictions do not apply:

• The sale or rental of a single-family house sold or rented by an owner if the owner does not own more than three single family homes at one time;

• The property is being sold or rented without the use of the services of a real estate broker, an agent, or a licensed salesperson;

• The sale or rental of rooms or units within a property intended to be occupied by up to four families living independently of each other if the owner maintains and occupies one of the living quarters themself.

Finally, the Fair Housing Act has strict guidelines when it comes to advertising the sale or rental of real property that always apply. A seller may not create any form of publication or advertisement which indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, ancestry, or national origin, or an intention to make such a preference, limitation, or discrimination.

To succeed on a discrimination claim, a buyer or tenant generally must be able to demonstrate that the seller or landlord of the property intended to discriminate against them due to a protected characteristic or that the actions of the seller or landlord have disproportionately affected members of a protected group. If you believe that you have been discriminated against, contact McNeely Law today at (317) 825-5110 to talk to an experienced attorney who can help you navigate through your options.

This McNeely Law LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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