Fair Housing 101

What is fair housing?

When looking to buy or rent a property it is important to know that you are protected under fair housing laws. Fair housing laws are some of the strongest civil rights statutes on the books. Federal and State laws make it illegal to discriminate against people when renting or purchasing a unit based on any of the following:


  • Race
  • Disability
  • Color
  • Ancestry
  • Religious creed
  • Marital status
  • National origin
  • Family status (families with children under 18)
  • Sex
  • Veteran status or membership in the armed forces of the United States
  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Genetic information
  • Status as a person who is a recipient of federal, state, or local public assistance or who is a tenant receiving federal, state or local housing subsidies including rental assistance or rental supplements

The law also covers advertising, including making discriminatory statements. Ads which express a preference for, or exclusion of, a particular group of people are illegal. In addition, there is a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to a person with a disability when it is necessary to ensure an equal housing opportunity.

Examples of behavior that MAY be housing discrimination include:

  • You call and get an appointment to look at a house, but when you get there, you are told that the house was just sold.
  • You are told that the apartment has been rented, but it is listed in the paper again.
  • You are told a higher selling price than what was advertised, or than what you heard others being told.
  • You are told that they cannot rent to families with children because the house has lead paint.
  • You are given terms of rental or sale which are different than those given to other persons.
  • You are directed to or away from certain neighborhoods based on race, national origin, religion, or disability.

If you think you have been discriminated against: Contact The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston or HUD and File a Complaint. Your claim will be reviewed and investigated, and if appropriate, the Commission will try to resolve it by working directly with both sides.