FHA Home Loan Fair Housing
A Message From The Secretary of HUD
Every American has a right to fair housing. The right to live where you
choose, to raise a family, to own a home - in dignity and without fear of
discrimination - is a fundamental right guaranteed to all. It cannot be
denied to anyone because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex,
familial status, or handicap.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
enforces the Fair Housing Act, which protects you against violations of
your housing rights. We want you to know how you are protected and what
to do if you believe you have been discriminated against.
I pledge to you that the Department will act quickly and efficiently
on all complaints of discrimination brought to our attention, and that
every American will receive the full protection of the law.
The Fair Housing Act
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)
What Housing Is Covered?
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the
Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family
housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated
by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
What Is Prohibited?
In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following
actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
- Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such
as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
In Mortgage Lending: No one may take any of the following actions based
on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:
- Refuse to make a mortgage loan
- Refuse to provide information regarding loans
- Impose different terms or conditions on a loan
- Discriminate in appraising property
- Refuse to purchase a loan or
- Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.
In Addition: It is illegal for anyone to:
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a
fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
- Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference
based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status,
or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies
to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt
from the Fair Housing Act.
Additional Protection If You Have a Disability
If you or someone associated with you:
your landlord may not:
- Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility
and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness,
AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and 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
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or
common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the handicapped
person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the 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 necessary for the handicapped person to use the housing.
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 her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to
However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct
threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal
Requirements for New Buildings
In buildings that are ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and
have an elevator and four or more units:
- Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
- 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
- Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
If a building with four or more units has no elevator and will be ready
for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground
These requirements for new buildings do not replace any more stringent
standards in State or local law.
Housing Opportunities For Families
Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it
may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate
against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:
- A parent
- A person who has legal custody of the child or children or
- The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or
custodian's written permission.
Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone
securing legal custody of a child under 18.
Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against
familial status discrimination if:
- The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed
for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local
government program or
- It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older or
- It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent
of the occupied units; has significant services and facilities for older
persons; and adheres to a published policy statement that demonstrates
an intent to house persons who are 55 or older. The requirement for
significant services and facilities is waived if providing them is not
practicable and the housing is necessary to provide important housing
opportunities for older persons.
A transition period permits residents on or before September 13, 1988,
to continue living in the housing, regardless of their age, without interfering
with the exemption.
If You Think Your Rights Have Been Violated
HUD is ready to help with any problem with housing discrimination. If you
think your rights have been violated, you may fill out a Housing Discrimination
Complaint form (which will be available for downloading soon!), write HUD
a letter, or telephone the HUD Hotline. You have one year after an alleged
violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as
What to Tell HUD:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the
- The address or other identification of the housing involved
- A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused
you to believe your rights were violated)
- The date(s) of the alleged violation
Where to Write:
Send the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or a letter to the HUD office
nearest you or to:
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, D.C. 20410-2000
Where to Call:
If you wish, you may use the toll-free Hotline number: 1-800-669-9777. (In
Washington, D.C. call 708-0836.)
If You Are Disabled:
HUD also provides:
- A toll-free TDD phone for the hearing impaired: 1-800-927-9275. (In
Washington, D.C., call 708-0836.)
- Tapes and Braille materials
- Assistance in reading and completing forms
What Happens When You File A Complaint?
HUD will notify you when it receives your complaint. Normally, HUD also
- Notify the alleged violator of your complaint and permit that person
to submit an answer
- Investigate your complaint and determine whether there is reasonable
cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated
- Notify you if it cannot complete an investigation within 100 days
of receiving your complaint
HUD will try to reach an agreement with the person your complaint is
against (the respondent). A conciliation agreement must protect both you
and the public interest. If an agreement is signed, HUD will take no further
action on your complaint. However, if HUD has reasonable cause to believe
that a conciliation agreement is breached, HUD will recommend that the
Attorney General file suit.
If HUD has determined that your State or local agency has the same fair
housing powers as HUD, HUD will refer your complaint to that agency for
investigation and notify you of the referral. That agency must begin work
on your complaint within 30 days or HUD may take it back.
What If You Need Help Quickly?
If you need immediate help to stop a serious problem that is being caused
by a Fair Housing Act violation, HUD may be able to assist you as soon as
you file a complaint. HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court
to seek temporary or preliminary relief, pending the outcome of your complaint,
- Irreparable harm is likely to occur without HUD's intervention
- There is substantial evidence that a violation of the Fair Housing
Example: A builder agrees to sell a house but, after learning the buyer
is black, fails to keep the agreement. The buyer files a complaint with
HUD. HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court to prevent
a sale to any other buyer until HUD investigates the complaint.
What Happens After A Complaint Investigation?
If, after investigating your complaint, HUD finds reasonable cause to believe
that discrimination occurred, it will inform you. Your case will be heard
in an administrative hearing within 120 days, unless you or the respondent
want the case to be heard in Federal district court. Either way, there is
no cost to you.
The Administrative Hearing:
If your case goes to an administrative hearing HUD attorneys will litigate
the case on your behalf. You may intervene in the case and be represented
by your own attorney if you wish. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will
consider evidence from you and the respondent. If the ALJ decides that discrimination
occurred, the respondent can be ordered:
- To compensate you for actual damages, including humiliation, pain
- To provide injunctive or other equitable relief, for example, to make
the housing available to you.
- To pay the Federal Government a civil penalty to vindicate the public
interest. The maximum penalties are $10,000 for a first violation and
$50,000 for a third violation within seven years.
- To pay reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
Federal District Court
If you or the respondent choose to have your case decided in Federal District
Court, the Attorney General will file a suit and litigate it on your behalf.
Like the ALJ, the District Court can order relief, and award actual damages,
attorney's fees and costs. In addition, the court can award punitive damages.
You May File Suit: You may file suit, at your expense, in Federal District
Court or State Court within two years of an alleged violation. If you cannot
afford an attorney, the Court may appoint one for you. You may bring suit
even after filing a complaint, if you have not signed a conciliation agreement
and an Administrative Law Judge has not started a hearing. A court may award
actual and punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs.
Other Tools to Combat Housing Discrimination:
If there is noncompliance with the order of an Administrative Law Judge,
HUD may seek temporary relief, enforcement of the order or a restraining
order in a United States Court of Appeals.
The Attorney General may file a suit in a Federal District Court if
there is reasonable cause to believe a pattern or practice of housing
discrimination is occurring.
For Further Information:
The Fair Housing Act and HUD's regulations contain more detail and technical
information. If you need a copy of the law or regulations, contact the HUD
office nearest you or:
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Room 5116
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, S. W.
Washington, D.C. 20410-2000