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 Fair Housing

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Housing Discrimination

What is Housing Discrimination?

In the Sale and Rental of Housing:  No one may take any of the following actions based on a person’s race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing;

  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental;

  • Offer different terms and conditions in the sale or rental of housing;

  • Refuse to allow a handicapped person to make reasonable modifications to a dwelling;

  • Refuse to reasonably accommodate a handicap person;

  • Advertise by using words or pictures which have the effect of discouraging a diverse group;

  • Persuade owners to sell or rent because a diverse group is moving into the area;

  • Discourage a diverse group from moving into certain areas (steering);

  • Intimidate, interfere, coerce, or threaten someone to keep them from the full benefit of the fair housing laws.

In Mortgage Lending:  No one may take any of the following actions based on a person’s race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status or handicap:

  • Refuse to 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;

  • Refuse appraisals or insurance or offer them with different or unfavorable terms.

Fair Housing Act

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended, prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis or race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability (protected classes). Familial status means either one or more minors (under the age of 18) who live with a parent or guardian or any person who is pregnant, or in the process of securing legal custody of any minor. In addition to the above mentioned protected classes, the state of Ohio and the city of Canton prohibit discrimination in ancestry. Click here to download the Fair Housing Act.

What is Covered?

The laws cover almost every kind of housing related discrimination.  They provide standing to persons injured by the discrimination.  The laws cover a broad range of transactions, including:  purchase and sale, rental, vacant land transactions, zoning, lending, insurance, appraisal, development, management and any transaction in which a person can be denied housing or services related to housing.  The Fair Housing Law prohibits discrimination that makes housing otherwise UNAVAILABLE.

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.

How do you Recognize Discrimination?

Housing discrimination is rarely blatant. It is usually cleverly disguised and, more often than not, is done with a smile and a handshake. Landlords and real estate agents usually don't say, "You can't live here because you have a handicap."  Some things landlords say that is handicap/disability discrimination:

  • "You can't live here because there's no one to take care of you."

  • "I'd like to rent to you, but my insurance will go up."

  • "We don't want alcoholics or drug addicts here, even if they're in recovery programs."

  • "We have a no-pets rule and that includes your guide dog."

  • "I want to see your medical records."

  • "Your wheelchair will damage the carpet and walls, and you won't be able to get out if there's a fire."

Landlords and real estate agents usually don't say, "We don’t accept kids."

Suspect housing discrimination when these types of comments are made:

  • “We take younger children, but teenagers will disturb the other tenants.”

  • “Sure we rent to families with kids, but we need an extra security deposit.”

  • “We only accept 3 people in our 2 bedroom apartments.”

  • “Our kids’ building is full.”

  • “There is no place for children to play.”

  • Sorry, a parent and child cannot share a bedroom.”

If you have a Disability

It is illegal for anyone to deny you housing because you have a mental or physical disability, or a record of having had a mental of physical disability, or because people think you have a mental or physical disability.


The Fair Housing Act protects people with mental retardation, mental illness, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairments, AIDS and other disabilities.  People who use walkers, wheelchairs, service dogs, or a personal care attendant are all protected against housing discrimination.

Persons who have disabilities are entitled to the same full enjoyment of their home as those persons without disabilities.  In order to fully enjoy the unit, it may be necessary to have specific accommodations or modifications made to a dwelling unit.

You May be Entitled to a Reasonable Accommodation

The Fair Housing Law makes it illegal to “refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

Common accommodations include:

  • Providing a parking space for a disabled person when the apartment complex doesn’t have assigned parking;

  • Contacting a caseworker or third party in case of behavior problems, rather than moving straight to an eviction;

  • Adjusting rent due date to accommodate alternate forms of income;

  • Issuing keys to visiting nurses or personal assistants;

  • Changing a no pet policy to permit a disabled person to have a service or therapeutic animal with no increase in security deposit.

You May be Entitled to Modifications 

When a tenant needs modifications to the structure of a unit to make it accessible, it is not the landlord’s responsibility to pay for the modifications.  A landlord may even require the tenant to set up an escrow account to ensure that the modifications can be removed when the tenant moves out.  However, a landlord may not refuse any request for reasonable modifications.

Some reasonable modifications include:

  • Building ramps over or next to staircases;

  • Removal of doors on kitchen cabinets;

  • Putting grab bars in showers and bathrooms;

  • Widening the doorway so a wheelchair can enter;

  • Putting flashing lights in for doorbells and smoke alarms for the hearing impaired.

If you have Children

Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, a landlord may not discriminate based on familial status.  The Fair Housing Law prohibits discrimination in housing against families with children under the age of 18 living with a parent or person having legal custody of such individuals.  Familial status also applies to any person who is pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of children under the age of 18.  Families cannot be denied the housing of their choice simply because they have children.

Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:

  • It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older;

  • It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 55 or older;

  • The building is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a federal or state program.

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