The Fair Housing Act prohibits unlawful discrimination in any aspect of selling, renting, or living in housing. To meet the requirements of the law, reasonable exceptions and modifications may be needed to allow equal housing opportunities for people with disabilities.

The act prohibits discrimination in housing against protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability.

Most housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act. “In very limited circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act.

What is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act?

The following sale and rental actions are among those specifically identified as illegal if based on discrimination against protected individuals, according to HUD:

  • Refusing to rent or sell housing
  • Refusing to negotiate for housing or otherwise making housing unavailable
  • Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale or rental of housing
  • Imposing different sale prices or rental charges
  • Evicting a tenant or a tenant’s guest
  • Failing or delaying maintenance or repairs
  • Assigning a person to a particular building, neighborhood, or section

For this full list and the list of discriminatory actions in mortgage lending, visit Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act.

What is an example of housing discrimination?

The following example of housing discrimination is provided by HUD:

John, who is a Black man, speaks to a prospective landlord on the phone about leasing an apartment. On the phone, the landlord seems eager to rent to John, but when John meets with the landlord in person to fill out an application, the landlord’s attitude is entirely different. A few days later, John receives a letter saying that his application was denied because of a negative reference from his current landlord. John is surprised because he never had problems with his landlord, and his landlord swears she was never contacted for a reference. John suspects that the real reason he was denied the apartment was because he is Black, so John files a complaint with HUD. HUD investigates and it turns out John is right – the landlord’s files show a pattern of discrimination because of race and color.

For more examples and information, visit Examples of Housing Discrimination.

Is accessibility required under the Fair Housing Act?

There are several laws that require accessible housing for people with disabilities.

The requirements of the Fair Housing Act usually cover privately-owned and publicly-assisted multifamily housing and include accessible common use areas, doorways and routes, light switches and electrical configurations, bathrooms, and kitchens. For information on building design and construction requirements, visit:

More resources related to fair housing