You may have seen the logo of the Fair Housing Act the last time you bought a house, a house with an equal sign in it, but what does it mean? This logo is a representation that your rights are protected in the deal because of a legislation passed 50 years ago. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed days after the assassination of one of the advocates that spearheaded the cause for years, Martin Luther King Jr.
This act prohibits discrimination was originally based on race, color, religion, and national origin. Later on, sex, disability, and familial status was also added to the act. Housing discrimination was a huge problem in the country. In the 1930s, President Roosevelt created loan programs as part of the New Deal. The decision to make those loans was decided by a color coded map. Green neighborhoods were good and red neighborhoods were bad. This was known as redlining. For people in green areas, it was incredibly easy to get a loan. However, that was not the case for the people who lived in the red areas.
What made areas red? It was their race. Areas with minority population were marked red on the map and given barely enough loans to pay rent. Moving from a red area to a green one was usually prohibited by some racist policy. From 1934-1968, 98% of home loans were given to white families. Even the federal government put those policies into action, and that history of segregation has allowed white populations to grow more wealthy while minorities are still given higher interest rates and less opportunities.
Over 25,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed in 2017. More than half of the complaints were based on disability and 20% were based on race. These are only reported incidents, however, and it is estimated that more than 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur every year. The thing is, that most people don’t know that they are being discriminated against, so here is what it looks like— so that you can take the next step.
Violations of the Fair Housing Act can happen in every phase of buying or renting a house. While you search, go through the application process, finance or credit checks, and during eviction proceedings. Discrimination against people could be:
- An agent trying to keep a buyer away from a certain neighborhood
- A landlord trying to avoid renting to someone by saying that the unit is already being rented
- A property management company refuses to rent to a family with children, or wants a higher deposit
- A landlord evicts a person of color for a reason that they would not evict a white tenant for
- A mortgage broker asks questions or requests excessive documentation from an immigrant couple that they wouldn’t request from another buyer
- A lender charges a single woman a higher interest rate than what her credit score should dictate
- A landlord refuses to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant who is disabled
If any of this happens to you, or anything of the like, you may:
- File a report with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Get more info from local housing agencies, which you can find at HUD.gov, that can help answer questions about claims, buyer education, pre-purchasing counseling, and rental housing assistance.
- Talk to an attorney, this is a legal issue and if you want to pursue a complaint you’ll need a lawyer.
- Find people you can trust to help you find a home
Real estate professionals should be helping you find the best home and deal for you.