The federal law that protects you from housing discrimination is the Fair Housing Act, a law enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits several types of discriminatory behavior if they are based solely on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability:
- Refusing to sell to, rent to or otherwise deal with an interested tenant or buyer. This includes not returning calls or ignoring firm sales offers.
- Applying different sale, rental, or occupancy terms for different people. This includes asking people of color to pay higher security deposits.
- The refusal by real estate professionals or companies to serve minority customers, steering customers to certain neighborhoods or making claims about the racial makeup of an area. This includes a real estate agent who tells clients interested in a certain home that a minority family lives next door or companies that purposely place ads where they are not likely to be seen by minorities.
- Lying about the availability of housing. This includes telling people of color, families or a disabled person that an apartment is already taken, when it is not.
- Frightening people into renting or selling their property by manipulating their prejudices. Called blockbusting, this includes efforts to buy property at below fair market value by telling people that members of a minority group are moving into the area.
- Discrimination in financing housing by a bank, savings and loan association, or other business. This includes charging creditworthy minority customers higher interest rates than other customers.
- Harassment. Tenants and homeowners have the right not to be harassed or frightened into abandoning their leases or leaving their homes. This includes racial and sexual harassment, such as slurs and threats of violence and sexual advances and innuendoes.
- Local zoning laws that have an unfair effect on minorities and are discriminatory in nature. In some communities, laws that restrict the size or number of occupants in a home have been used to target Latins and Asian households who live with several generations under the same roof.
- Attempts to threaten or intimidate people so that they will not exercise their rights or file complaints under the Fair Housing Act.