Housing Discrimination Examples and Where to Find Resources

Written by Ingrid Haftel
Updated 12/16/2019

It’s illegal for someone to discriminate against you in your housing search. There are laws in place to protect your rights because access to housing should be equal. That means you shouldn’t be treated differently than someone else in your search for a home. Below, find out what counts as discrimination and where to go if you need more resources or want help fighting back.

1. Housing discrimination is against the law

The federal Fair Housing Act protects your rights. The law says it's illegal for anyone to discriminate against you on the basis of these factors (called “protected classes”):

  • Race

  • Color

  • National origin

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • Familial status (whether you have children)

  • Disability

If you live in New York City, your rights are also protected by the New York City Human Rights Law. This law protects an even bigger list of classes, including: 

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2. If a landlord treats you differently because of any of the protected classes above, that counts as housing discrimination

Housing discrimination has many different faces. Trust your instincts. If you think someone has discriminated against you, check out the resources below and consider filing a complaint. Here are just a few housing discrimination examples:

  • You’re denied an apartment and you think it’s because of your race, color, religion, or where you’re from

  • A rental agent shows you fewer apartments than you know are available

  • Other applicants to your building have gotten special treatment, like fees waived. You don’t get the same treatment and you heard your landlord doesn’t like “people like you.”

  • Your building management makes rules that only apply to your children

  • You have a disability and your housing facilities aren’t accessible to you 

For more information, check out the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for more examples of housing discrimination.

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3. Sexual harassment counts as housing discrimination

For example, it’s illegal for someone to ask you to go out with them or engage in sexual activity in exchange for housing. It’s also illegal for a landlord, building manager, or maintenance person to sexually harass you.

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4. Renters aren’t the only protected people—buyers and sellers are, too

The Fair Housing Act also prohibits discrimination against people in the process of buying or selling property, or lending discrimination. For example, if a rental agent discriminated against you in the process of applying for a mortgage, that’s illegal, too.

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5. How to fight back

If someone has discriminated against you, you have the right to file a complaint. Depending on what happened, you may be able to get help from the government in resolving your complaint or taking legal action

You can also join up with other people who have been discriminated against and make some noise about what you’ve experienced. By organizing together, we can make it harder for landlords and building management to keep up housing discrimination.

Check out these resources for more information on the housing discrimination:

Fair Housing Justice Center — Detailed guides and fact sheets on Fair Housing laws and housing discrimination.

Metropolitan Council on Housing — Housing discrimination information for tenants from NYC’s oldest tenant organization.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity (FHEO) — Resources from the federal agency in charge of protecting fair housing.

NYC Commission on Human Rights — Information on human rights protections for New Yorkers when it comes to housing.

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