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Fair Housing FAQ

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What is Fair Housing?

Fair housing refers to free and equal access to residential housing – renters, homebuyers and people seeking housing are free to choose the housing that is best for them. According to the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status, handicap, age, ancestry and use of guide or support animals because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of the user or because the user is a handler or trainer of support or guide animals.


In Pennsylvania, the PA Human Relations Act covers a gap in the federal law by making housing discrimination on the basis of age (over 40) illegal.


Why does fair housing matter?

Fair housing is a critical component to ensuring that all persons can freely choose where to live.


What kind of housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act?  

Most housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.


What are some examples of housing discrimination?

  • Refusing to rent or sell housing based on status as a member of one or more protected classes (i.e. race, religion, etc.)

  • Falsely denying that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental

  • Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or rental of a dwelling

  • Refusing to let a person with a disability make reasonable and necessary modifications to a dwelling or common use area, at the disabled person’s expense

  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans or steering consumers to inferior products or to other lenders

  • Refusing  to rent to a person who has a service animal

  • Steering persons with one or more children and/or persons who are pregnant away from a housing unit. Even asking how many children a person has can be viewed as discriminatory and so should not be asked.

  • Not offering to show a person who is in a wheelchair an apartment that is not on the ground floor if the person did not ask to only see ground floor apartments

  • Advertising or making any statement indicating a limitation or preference based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.


Who is protected under Fair Housing laws?

Fair housing laws protect all people seeking housing. This includes renters, homebuyers and people obtaining a mortgage or homeowners insurance.

How long do I have to file a complaint if I believe I’ve been discriminated against?

You have 180 days to file a complaint after an alleged violation.


What information do I need to provide to file a fair housing complaint?

If you suspect that you have been discriminated against with regard to housing, file a complaint as soon as possible because there are time limits on when a complaint can be filed with HUD after an alleged violation.


Include the following information, if possible, when filing a complaint:

  • Your name and address;

  • The name and address of the person(s) or organization your complaint is against;

  • The address or other identifying information of the housing or program your complaint is being filed against;

  • A brief description of what happened that caused you to file the complaint; and

  • The date(s) of the alleged discrimination.


Who can I contact if I believe I’ve been discriminated against?

Complaints related to discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status may also be filed directly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania.

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