Learn more about the Fair Housing Act


In the United States, housing discrimination is illegal; the Fair Housing Act, or FHA, bans most forms of housing discrimination and aims to ensure that mortgage applicants, prospective renters, or current tenants are not treated differently based on specific criteria or traits.

The seven protected classes

Under the FHA, there are seven federally “protected classes”. They are:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Handicap
  • Familial status
  • National origin

Sexual orientation, citizenship, or marital status are not protected classes under the FHA. However, the groups may be protected by separate state or local laws.

Responsibilities when buying and selling a home

The FHA gives buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals rights and responsibilities.

Home buyers: Buyers have the right to search for the housing of their choice and cannot be denied housing based on their membership in one of the seven protected classes. This includes:

  • The opportunity to consider a wide range of housing choices in your price range
  • Having no limits placed on communities or location of houses
  • No discrimination when applying for financing or insurance for a home
  • To exercise their right to fair housing without harassment or intimidation

Home sellers

Sellers have the responsibility to not discriminate in the sale of their home based on the seven protected classes. This includes asking brokers or agents to convey any limitations in the sale based on these discriminating factors.

Real estate professionals 

Real estate professionals are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Article 10 of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics firmly supports equal opportunity in housing and further prevents REALTORS® from engaging in discriminatory practices.

The FHA and renting 

Landlords and renters have similar rights and responsibilities under the FHA. Based on your belonging to one of the seven protected classes, the FHA makes it illegal to:

  • Refuse to rent housing
  • Evict someone
  • Use different criteria or applications
  • Refuse to make or allow for reasonable modifications
  • Separate people to specific areas or units

If you suspect discrimination  

If you suspect you have been the victim of discrimination, complaints can be filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, at http://www.hud.gov/. The Local Boards of REALTORS® can also accept complaints regarding violations to the Code of Ethics.

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