How Does the Federal Fair Housing Act Affect You?

The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to make it illegal to discriminate in the rental or purchase of a house. The Fair Housing Act was included in the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The act was passed to prevent landlords and sellers from discriminating against individuals based on certain characteristics. With this law, every applicant or buyer should be judged solely on the criteria to rent or purchase a home instead of as being part of a protected group.

Original Protection

The Fair Housing Act was originally designed to protect buyers or renters. The protection offered was from landlords or sellers to protect against discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin. The law also covered financing when purchasing a home. The Act was amended in 1974 to provide additional protection which made it illegal to discriminate based on sex or religion. A year later, in 1975, it was modified again to prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their age.

How it Impacts Rentals

Before the Fair Housing Act was passed, landlords routinely would not rent their property to people of different races. This mainly impacted blacks who were denied the right to rent a property owned by white landlord. It also impacted women who were denied the right to rent a property. Landlords would rent to a male but would not rent to a female.

With the extended coverage, landlords cannot refuse to rent to someone based on their religion. Traditionally protestant landlords would not rent to Catholics. Landlords cannot advertise their rental to be open to only white males because this would be considered discrimination. The law was designed to allow everyone who met the requirements to rent a property be allowed to rent the property without having certain attributes keep them from renting.

How it Impacts Financing

Lenders are required to lend to everyone who meets their credit and income requirements. Prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act, lenders would redline certain areas of a city because of the higher percentage of minorities that lived there, higher default rates or higher rates of crime. This action prevented many qualified minorities from being able to purchase a home because they could not get approved for financing. Even if they were approved for a loan, they were charged a higher interest rate or were required to put down a higher down payment. The Fair Housing Act made this process illegal and, by default, increased the percentage of home ownership among minorities.

How it Impacts Home Sales

Sellers of properties can not refuse to sell their property to a person based on any of the covered characteristics covered in the Fair Housing Act. If a seller refused to accept an offer from someone in a protected class, they have violated the law. The Fair Housing Act was passed to give everyone the right to rent, purchase a home or obtain financing. This Act opened up the market to many people that were previously banned from the real estate market.

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