Fair Housing is Everyone’s Right!
Stating a discriminatory preference in regards to a housing purchase, rental or advertisement is illegal!
Section 3604(c) of the Federal Fair Housing Act. This law generally prohibits stating, in any notice or ad, in writing or verbally, for the sale or rental of a dwelling, a discriminatory preference based on any of the following protected categories:
- Race or Color
- National Origin
- Familial Status
- Handicap / Disability
The Fair Housing Act provides additional protections, and limited exceptions, that are explained in publications from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the Department of Justice.
HUD has issued guidance on advertising, including for roommates.
State and local laws often prohibit discrimination based on other factors (e.g. sexual orientation, age, marital status, or source of income).
If you encounter a housing listing on childsrealestate.com or a claim or statement made by agents or spokespersons of Childs Real Estate LLC that you believe violates the Fair Housing laws, please contact us immediately. 843-560-9393
In addition to penalties that may be applied by regulatory agencies, other remedial measures may be applicable.
What are the laws for roommates and shared housing?
Federal Fair Housing laws for roommates and shared housing have two components: advertising and decision-making.
- Advertising: Federal Fair Housing laws prohibit discrimination in all housing, regardless of how large or small the property. However, as discussed below, advertising or statements which expresses a preference based upon sex is allowed in shared living situations where tenants will share a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area.
- Decision-making: Although the prohibition on discriminatory advertising applies to roommate and shared housing situations, federal Fair Housing laws do not cover the basis of decisions made by landowners who own less than four units, and live in one of the units. This means that in a situation in which a landlord owns less than four rental units, and lives in one of the units, it is legal for the owner to discriminate in the selection process based on the aforementioned categories, but it is illegal for that owner to advertise or otherwise make a statement expressing that discriminatory preference.
Are there any exceptions to the Fair Housing laws?
Under federal Fair Housing law, the prohibition on discriminatory statements or advertisements applies to all situations except the following:
- Shared Housing Exemption — If you are advertising a shared housing unit, in which tenants will be sharing a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area, you may express a preference based upon sex only.
- Private Club and Religious Exemptions — A religious community or private club whose membership is not restricted based upon race, color, or national origin may restrict tenancy only to its members in a property that it owns, and may advertise to that effect.
- Housing for Older Persons Exemption — As discussed below, certain complexes for elderly persons are exempt from prohibitions on familial status discrimination, including the prohibitions on discriminatory advertising.
What are the “protected categories” in my area?
The “protected categories” under state and local Fair Housing laws may differ depending on where you reside.
Federal law prohibits discrimination based on the following protected categories:
- National Origin
- Handicap / Disability
- Familial Status
State and local laws often extend anti-discrimination protections to other categories, such as age, marital status, sexual orientation, or source of income. Click your state below for a brief summary of state Fair Housing laws in your state. Please note that not all states have additional Fair Housing laws.
South Carolina – Same protected categories as the federal law (S.C. Code Ann. §§ 31-21-10, et. seq.).
What is “familial status”?
“Familial status” means the presence of children under the age of 18.
Unless otherwise exempted, it is illegal to:
- discriminate against families with children
- discourage families with children from renting a unit
- steer families with children to a particular area of an apartment complex
- establish rules, regulations, or policies that discriminate or have a disparate impact on families with children
- discriminate against pregnant women
- discriminate against anyone in process of securing legal custody of a child under age 18
Who is exempted from laws prohibiting “familial status” discrimination?
Under federal Fair Housing laws, “housing for older persons” is exempted from the prohibitions on “familial status” discrimination.
“Housing for older persons” is defined as either of the following:
- Housing occupied solely by persons 62 years of age or older; or
- Housing in which 80% of the occupied units have at least one person 55 years of age or older, and which meet certain other requirements.
This exemption applies only to familial status discrimination; discrimination against all other protected categories, including disability, is still prohibited in housing for older persons.
How does the law define “handicap”?
Federal law defines “handicap” as any “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of [a] person’s major life activities, a record of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.”
Further discussion of the definition of “handicap” can be found in the section 100.201 of Title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulations (24 C.F.R. 100.201). Your state laws may also have broader definitions of “handicap.”
What should I do if I find a discriminatory posting?
If you encounter a housing posting on craigslist that you believe violates the Fair Housing laws, please flag the posting as “prohibited”.
If you are not sure if the posting violates the Fair Housing act, please contact HUD or your local Fair Housing center. If you have made contact with the poster and have been discriminated against based on one of the protected categories, you may file a claim with HUD or your local Fair Housing center as well.
Recognizing a discriminatory statement
In general, a statement is discriminatory if it expresses a limitation or preference based on one of the protected categories, which may vary depending upon where you reside, but which always include the seven (7) federal categories. State or local laws may protect other categories. Go here for a quick summary of additional laws near you.
A statement is also discriminatory if it uses language that might be discouraging towards a certain protected category. For instance, saying that a particular apartment is “perfect for a single or couple” could be discouraging towards families with children, who do not fit within the stated groups. Please note that unintentionally discriminatory statements are still illegal.
Lastly, a statement is discriminatory if it uses language that might have a disparate, or disproportional, impact on a certain protected category. For instance, an advertisement for a 2 bedroom unit which states a preference for “2 persons only” might have a disparate impact on families with children because, though it does not explicitly state a preference based on familial status, it creates an overly restrictive occupancy limit which would affect families with children to a greater extent than other types of households. (For more information on reasonable occupancy limits, see HUD’s guidance on occupancy standards.)
Examples of Discriminatory Statements
Although not an exhaustive list, these examples should give you some idea of what might constitute a discriminatory housing statement.
1. race / color
- stating a preference for the race of a desired applicant (eg. “no blacks,” “whites only,” etc)
- describing the race of current occupants of the complex or neighborhood (eg. “African-American neighborhood,” “most residents are Asian,” “lots of Hispanic families,” etc)
- stating a preference for the religion of a desired applicant (eg. “Christians only,” “no Muslims,” etc)
- describing the religion of current occupants of the complex or neighborhood (eg. “nice, Christian neighborhood,” “Jewish family seeks roommate,” etc)
3. national origin
- stating a preference for a certain national origin (eg. “no immigrants,” “no foreigners,” “Irish preferred,” etc)
- posted only in a language other than English
- describing the national origin of current occupants of the complex or neighborhood (eg. “predominately Latino neighborhood,” “mostly Asian residents,” etc)
4. handicap / disability
- stating a preference for able-bodied tenants (eg. “no wheelchairs,” “must be able to live independently,” etc)
- describing the complex as unable to accommodate people with disabilities (eg. “units are not accessible”, “no pets, even seeing eye dogs”, etc)
5. familial status
- stating a clear preference for families without children (eg. “no children,” “no kids and no pets,” “single occupancy only,” etc)
- statements that could discourage families with children (eg. “ideal for working professionals,” “perfect for single or couple,” “nice, quiet, mature, neighborhood,” etc)
6. sex / gender *
- stating a preference for one sex over another (eg. “no young men,” “female preferred,” etc)
* as discussed above, the prohibitions on stating or advertising a preference based upon sex do not apply to shared housing situations.
National Fair Housing Alliance — a national organization dedicated to ending discrimination in housing
National Fair Housing Advocate — an online resource for fair housing advocates and public on issues relating to housing discrimination
Housing.org — the official site of Project Sentinel, one of the country’s largest fair housing centers
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — the federal agency charged with investigating claims of housing discrimination
Guidance on advertising – published by HUD
Guidance on advertising – published by the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission
Guidance on Advertising – published by the Equal Rights Center
Please refer to the actual laws or your local Fair Housing center for more information of local laws.