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Federal Fair Housing Act
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of:
- Race or color
- National origin
- Familial status (having children under the age of 18 years or being pregnant)
Sometimes city ordinances can provide more protection than the federal or state acts, so check with your city to find out what is covered. For example, the federal and state acts do not provide protection against discrimination based upon marital status or sexual orientation, but the City of Austin does.
What does discrimination look like?
Check out this video from the City of Waco for an example of housing discrimination:
These are some things a landlord might say if they are discriminating against you (from ATC):
- “We don’t rent to your kind.”
- “You’re just not the kind of person we want here.”
- “Only five people can rent a three-bedroom apartment under our rules.”
- “Congratulations on the new baby. But since you’re in a one-bedroom apartment, you’ll need to move into a two-bedroom unit.”
- “I’m sorry, but we’ll have to charge a pet deposit for your guide dog.”
- “We have a separate waiting list for people in wheelchairs.”
- “Families with children can only live in buildings near the back of the complex.”
At a minimum under federal law, a landlord cannot do the following things based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (having children under the age of 18 or being pregnant), and disability:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
- Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
It is also illegal for anyone to:
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
- Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
If any of these things have happened to you, you can submit a complaint with HUD or contact your local fair housing center, listed on the Resources page. For more information on this, see How can I submit a fair housing complaint? (below).
Disabilities and requesting accommodations and modifications
Check out the Disability Rights Texas video below to understand reasonable accommodations and modifications.
If you or someone associated with you:
- Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and intellectual disabilities) that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Have a record of such a disability; or
- Are regarded as having such a disability
your landlord may not:
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas (at your expense) if necessary for you to use the housing in the same way as someone without your disability. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for you to use the housing and the accommodation is necessary because of your disability.
Example: A building with a “no pets” policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.
There are also certain questions that your landlord cannot ask you about your disability. For more on this and accommodations, check out this page from the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio.
What kind of housing is covered under the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act covers the sale and rental of almost all housing with only a few exemptions. The exemptions are listed in the Texas Property Code in sections 301.401 (certain sales and rentals exempted), 301.042 (religious organization and private clubs), and 301.043 (housing for elderly).
Religious organizations can legally limit the sale, rental or occupancy of dwellings that they own or operate for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion and can give preference to persons of the same religion unless membership in the religion is restricted because of race, color, or national origin.
Private clubs that are not open to the public and that as an incident of their primary purpose, provide lodging that they own or operate for other than a commercial purpose may limit the rental or occupancy to their members or give preference to their members.
How can I file a fair housing complaint?
You can file a complaint on the federal level with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or on the state level with the Texas Workforce Commission.
HUD or a HUD-approved agency will investigate all complaints of housing discrimination. If you believe you have been illegally discriminated against, you can submit a complaint online, by email (ComplaintsOffice06@hud.gov), by phone (1-800-669-9777), or by mail (address below). You can download HUD’s housing discrimination Complaint Form below, complete it, and send it in to the address or email address below. The HUD website has the complaint form in many languages. You have one year after the time you were discriminated against to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file as soon as possible. HUD may refer your complaint to a local agency to investigate.
Below is the contact information for the regional HUD office:
- Fort Worth Regional Office of FHEO
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- 801 Cherry Street, Unit #45
- Suite 2500
- Fort Worth, Texas 76102
- (817) 978-5900
- (800) 669-9777
- TTY (817) 978-5595
The HUD video below explains the process for filing a Fair Housing Complaint (en español):