The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act is designed to ensure that all Americans get access to the housing they need, without regard to race or color, religion, gender, national origin, family status or disability. As a result, you do have some protection from discrimination in any business transaction concerning a home, whether for renting or buying, obtaining mortgages or insurance.

While many people consider this act to be more important in terms of rental housing, it is important to remember that it also applies to mortgage loans! In fact, any direct providers of housing, including landlords and real estate companies, are under the act. However, there are many other entities involved in housing, including municipalities, banks or other lenders as well as homeowner insurance companies. All these companies and organizations can also be subject to this act, if they are indulging in discriminatory practices related to housing.

Under the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Justice can bring a lawsuit if there is any reason to believe that an individual, municipality or company is engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination in the area of housing, including mortgages and insurance. The Act also provides procedures for handling individual complaints. So, if for some reason you believed you were the victim of an illegal housing practice, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If your complaint is found to have merit by HUD, it will be referred to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice can bring suit on your behalf.

Unfortunately, even though the Fair Housing Act has been in place for 30 years, racial discrimination in housing continues to be an ongoing problem. The majority of cases in front of the Justice Department involved race discrimination. With this in mind, please keep your eyes and ears open. Obviously, most housing providers will not directly tell you that you will not be considered for renting, buying, mortgages or insurance because of color. However, there should be a pattern of false information about the availability of housing in a particular area, or steering clients to other areas based on race. If you suspect such treatment, you are entitled to lodge a complaint against those involved.

When it comes to complaints filed regarding mortgages, it is again mostly allegations that race or color prevented a person or family from obtaining a mortgage. In some cases, there have even been allegations of municipalities and other local government agencies being involved in racially motivated discrimination.

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