Legal Issues & Renting

What defines rental discrimination?

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When applying for a rental property, there are laws protecting you, the applicant, from discrimination. When the rental market is strong, meaning there are many applicants applying for a few number of rental units, it may be harder to claim a case of discrimination. This is because a landlord will traditionally choose the best candidate overall to rent the unit.

Here are some facts you do need to know renal property discrimination:

The Federal Fair Housing Act and its amendments make it illegal for a landlord to reject tenants based on certain criteria. These include:

  • Skin color
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Disability or a physical or mental handicap
  • Familial status (families with young children are protected under this)
  • Sex

In addition to refusing to rent out a unit, these criteria also extend to treatment of landlords for current renters. For example, landlords cannot refuse to perform maintenance services for any of the above mentioned criteria reasons, nor can landlords subject tenants to sexual harassment, or allow other tenants to sexually harass a tenant.

Each state or local community may have additional renting regulations protecting renters from discrimination.

According to, landlords can legally use the following reasons to not rent to a person or family:

  • Credit history
  • Income
  • Rental history reports showing failure to pay rent
  • Prior bankruptcies
  • Negative references
  • Some criminal convictions
  • Pets

If you feel you have been discriminated against by a landlord, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which investigate the situation. This complaint must be filed within one year of the reported discrimination. Visit to file the complaint online.

Before accusing your landlord of discrimination make sure you know what’s on your rental and eviction background report.