APRIL is Fair Housing Month – Read Harris County Community Services Department’s Fair Housing Newsletter
Fair Housing Information for Disaster Survivors
The aftermath of a disaster can be a time of loss and transition for individuals and communities. Housing discrimination is always illegal. Know your rights and respect the rights of others. If you have questions or wish to file a complaint, Email or contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 and for the hearing impaired, please call TTY (800) 927-9275.
File Your Complaint Online:
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
The Fair Housing Act
Harris County supports vigilant enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, established on April 11, 1968, seven days following the death of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King. The Fair Housing Act defines what discrimination is and provides avenues of relief for those who feel they have been denied access to housing based on those definitions.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of:
- Race or Color
- National Origin
- Familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians; pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18)
According to the Fair Housing Handbook published by HUD (2011):
What is Prohibited?
In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Otherwise deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- For profit, persuade or try to persuade homeowners to sell or rent dwellings by suggesting that people of a particular race, etc. have moved, or are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting) or
- Deny any person access to, or membership or participation in, any organization, facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of dwellings, or discriminates against any person in the terms or conditions of such access, membership or participation.
In Mortgage Lending: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin:
- Refuse or make a mortgage loan
- Refuse to provide information regarding loans
- Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
- Discriminate in appraising property
- Refuse to purchase a loan or
- Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan
- In addition, it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to:
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise the right
- Make, print, or publish any statement, in connection with the sale or rental of a dwelling, which indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
- Refuse to provide homeowners insurance coverage for a dwelling because of the race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
- Discriminate in the terms or conditions of homeowners insurance coverage because of the race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
- Refuse to provide available information on the full range of homeowners insurance coverage options available because of the race, etc. of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling
- Make print or publish any statement, in connection with the provision of homeowners insurance coverage, that indicates a preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin
Additional Protection If You Have A Disability
If you or someone associated with you:
- Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, cancer, chronic mental illness, HIV/AIDS or mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Have a record of such a disability or
- Are regarded as having such a disability, a housing provider may not:
Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if it may be necessary for you to fully use the housing. (Where reasonable, a landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if it may be necessary for you to use the housing on an equal basis with nondisabled persons.
Example: A building with a “no pets” policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near his or her apartment if it may be necessary to assure that they can have access to their apartment. However, the Fair Housing Act does not protect a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others who currently uses illegal drugs.
Accessibility Requirements for New Multifamily Buildings: In buildings with four or more units that were first occupied after March 13, 1991, and that have an elevator:
- Public and common use areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
- All doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
- All units must have
- an accessible route into and through the unit
- Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other
- Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and
- Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs
If a building with four or more units has no elevator and was first occupied after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floors units only.
These accessibility requirements for new multifamily buildings do not replace more stringent accessibility standards required under State or local law.
Housing Protection for Families with Children
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person whose household includes one or more children who are under 18 years of age familial status. Familial status protection covers households in which one or more minor children live with:
- A parent
- A person who has legal custody (including guardianship) of a minor child or children
- The designee of a parent or legal custodian, with the written permission of the parent or legal custodian
Familial status protection also extends to pregnant women and any person in the process of securing legal custody of a minor child (including adoptive or foster parents).
Ending Housing Discrimination
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status (i.e., presence of children in the household). The Fair Housing Act does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited bases. However, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person’s experience with sexual orientation or gender identity housing discrimination may still be covered by the Fair Housing Act. In addition, housing providers that receive HUD funding, have loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as well as lenders insured by FHA, may be subject to HUD program regulations intended to ensure equal access of LGBT persons.
File A Discrimination Complaint (Texas)
888-560-8913 or 817-978-5900
File Your Complaint Online:
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Email or contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 and for the hearing impaired, please call TTY (800) 927-9275
If you feel you have experienced discrimination in the purchase or rental of your home, report it to these agencies.
Attorney General of Texas
City of Houston, Dept. of Housing & Community Development
Greater Houston Fair Housing Center
Houston Apartment Association
Houston Center for Independent Living
HUD Fair Housing and Equal Housing Opportunity
State Bar of Texas
(800) 204-2222 x2610
Know Yours Rights as a Tenant
Texas Workforce – Civil Rights Division