You probably already know it is against the Fair Housing Laws to discriminate against potential tenants due to their race, gender, and age. However, you should know that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the later amendments cover several protected classes and categories of people. To avoid any accidental violations of Fair Housing Laws, you need to be familiar with how these laws cover your entire relationship with all potential renters and active renters. This includes everything from advertising to managing your rental units.

Family status

This is one of the most common ways landlords unintentionally run afoul of Fair Housing Laws. You can’t discriminate against any renters based on whether or not they have children, are pregnant, or may be trying to adopt. Actions that may be considered discrimination include declining to rent to tenants with children, charging a higher deposit, or limiting children’s access to common areas. You also are prohibited from putting families with children on certain floors or otherwise isolating them. Be mindful that saying things like, “You may enjoy living in an area with more children better,” or “These units are best suited for adults,” are considered verbal violations and are actionable.

Disability or Handicap

The Fair Housing Act protects people with mental or physical impairment. Additionally, the law stipulates that landlords must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with a handicap, those with past disabilities, and those who are perceived by others to have a handicap.

For a house rental, the tenant must pay for modifications themselves and return the house to its original condition prior to moving out. As a landlord, you must allow service animals regardless of your existing pet policy if they meet the following three criteria: the person must have a disability, the animal must serve a function related to the disability, and the request to allow the animal must be reasonable.


It is very easy to unintentionally discriminate against tenants based on gender. If you decline to show a rental property to a woman because you don’t feel it is a safe place for her to live, you are violating Fair Housing. There is an exception for renting a room with a shared living space. While the Fair Housing Act does not specifically cover sexual orientation and gender identity as protected, it may still be covered by the Fair Housing Act.

It is crucial to be familiar with the Fair Housing Laws if you want to avoid problems. You should also read your state’s laws to be sure you are in compliance with them.

Related Articles:

Denying Housing Over Criminal Record May Be Discrimination, Feds Say

The Police and Your Multifamily Property

Seven Excellent Tenant Screening Questions

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Theresa Bradley-Banta writes about investing in real estate while avoiding the pitfalls that plague many new investors. She is a 2017 PropTech Top 100 Influencer and winner of 14 American and International real estate awards for her website and real estate investing programs. As featured on: The Equifax Finance Blog, AOL’s Daily Finance, Scotsman Guide, The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show, Stevie Awards Blog, Rental Housing Journal, and Investors Beat among others.

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