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Rental Application Discrimination Help - Part 1

It is strictly illegal for a property owner to refuse to rent to you because of your race, nationality, religion, disability, or family status. If you think you're facing discrimination, here's what to do.



Renting a home or apartment can be an exciting event. You have the opportunity to shop around for different homes and may even be able to find a new home that is better, more spacious, in a better neighborhood, and more comfortable than where you previously lived. In some markets where housing is at a premium, finding a good home can be difficult unless you're willing to pay more. Even families who are ready and able to pay more may face problems due to another obstacle: rental application discrimination.

If you think you've been a victim of this type of illegal action, you may be asking many questions: How can you tell if a landlord is discriminating against you? What kind of discrimination is acceptable and what kind is illegal? What kind of aid or assistance is available for victims of discrimination?

What is Rental Application Discrimination?
Rental application discrimination occurs when someone's application is denied because of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Most types of rental discrimination are illegal, so if you've been a victim, it's important to understand what you may be dealing with and how to get your situation resolved.

The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 states that it is illegal to discriminate against potential tenants by:[1]

Race

Nationality

Religion

Disability

Family status (such as having children, or being pregnant)

Additionally, when making a property available for rent, it is illegal for the property owner or Management Company to do all of the following:

Include preferences for certain kinds of people in an advertisement

Use different standards on different people

Deny access to specific groups of people or suggest housing in particular

Dictate unreasonable restrictions on the number of people that may live in a residence

Ask for sexual favors in return for an application approval

Deny certain services to some applicants

Laws exist to protect the consumers from unfair practices. As with most laws of this nature, there are also legal avenues that anyone who feels they have been a victim can take to help rectify the situation. To make use of this protection, though, you have to be able to recognize illegal actions, and you have to be willing to seek legal redress.

What Criteria can Property Owners Use?
When you fill out an application, there is some information property owners can legally collect and use to either accept or deny an application. Legally, the property owner or management company can ask for[2]:

Credit History

Income

Job status

Pets owned

Social Security Number

Criminal Record

Eviction History

References from Past Landlords

Rental History

Landlords and rental companies can legally exclude tenants based on any or all of these criteria. However, a rental company must tell you what criteria they use to accept or reject an application and must apply those criteria equally to all applicants. That means, for example, if a rental company accepts a minimum credit score of 600, it cannot deny your application for citing a low credit score if space is available and your credit score is at or above that level. Any information that the property owner does not explicitly identify as a required part of the application cannot be used as a basis to turn down an application.

How to Handle Rental Application Discrimination
If you feel you may be a victim, here are some steps you can take to help rectify the situation and pursue just compensation.

Best Option: File a Complaint with HUD.

One of the first things you should do is to submit a complaint to the federal Department of Housing (HUD). HUD is the key legal body overseeing all types of housing concerns in the U.S. The complaint form is available online.[3] It asks for your contact information and asks you to describe the event and any relevant information. Pertinent to this form is describing, in detail, why you believe there was discrimination based on the Fair Housing Act. Make sure to be as detailed as possible when filing the complaint and be sure to mention information relevant to the points specified in the Fair Housing Act.

HUD will review the complaint and will contact you for more details. Should they find that your complaint has merit, they will proceed with helping you mitigate the situation. HUD states that an agent will contact you within ten days. Should you have a case, HUD will represent your cause using the Department of Justice, free. A maximum civil penalty of $16,000 may be awarded to you if the property owner or management company is found guilty.

Notes
1. "The Fair Housing Act of 1986" . Legal-Dictionary.TheFreeDictionary.com
2. "Tenant Screening" . TenantsUnion.org