Fair Housing 101

What Is the Federal Fair Housing Act and Whom Does it Protect?

The Federal Fair Housing Act refers to Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This Act, protects your right to rent an apartment, buy a home, obtain a mortgage, or purchase homeowners insurance free from discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status, and
  • Disability

In addition to the Act, the following legislation and executive orders may apply and provide a basis for federal fair housing enforcement:

For help in identifying what discrimination may look like, please view the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") YouTube Channel or the National Fair Housing Alliance page. If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, view the How to File a Complaint page. To download more information, including the HUD complaint app and fair housing rights brochures, visit our Toolkits, Sample Forms, and Downloads page.

What Is the Goal of the Fair Housing Act?

HUD, in the Summary of its final 2015 rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, states that “[t]he Fair Housing Act not only prohibits discrimination but, in conjunction with other statutes, directs HUD’s program participants to take significant actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, achieve truly balanced and integrated living patterns, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities.” Read the AFFH Final Rule and view the Assessment of Fair Housing Tool for local jurisdictions or access HUD’s Fair Housing Planning Guide (PDF) to learn more about HUD’s goals to eliminate segregation and discriminatory practices in programs administered with its funds.

Learn more about HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule by visiting: HUD user.

Are Any Kinds of Housing Exempt From the Law?

All housing is covered by fair housing laws although there may be differences in how some laws and provisions are applied. Only owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members are exempt under certain circumstances.

While not exempt, some properties follow special guidance under the Housing for Older Persons Amendment ("HOPA") to the Fair Housing Act, which can change the way a property must follow familial status protections under fair housing law. Review the HOPA (PDF). For additional guidance, please read HUD’s HOPA FAQs (PDF).

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