Many apartment hunters worry about encountering unfair housing discrimination as they look for a rental. For example, they're afraid they'll be turned away because of their race or religion, or because of the fact they use a wheelchair or have kids. People who get discriminated against while looking for an apartment often experience two main types of harm.
The obvious one is the unpleasant feeling of believing you've become the victim of another person's prejudice. It's the realization that something as essential as your housing is being determined by another person based on what appears to be unfair, illegitimate reasons.
The other type of harm relates to the non-emotional aspects of discrimination, which include the additional burden and financial expense of having to endure a prolonged apartment search simply because your apartment application was unfairly rejected.
Fortunately, if you're worried that a landlord's beliefs or rules may unfairly prevent you from getting an apartment or enjoying your apartment living to the fullest, there are two things you can do right now:
- Take a moment to learn about how the law protects prospects and tenants from discrimination, and
- Find out what you can do if you believe you're the victim of illegal discrimination.
Learn the Basics of Housing Discrimination
Fortunately, as you begin an apartment search, keep in mind that many landlords are keenly aware of the laws that affect their business and strive to comply, particularly when it comes to fair housing. Plenty of landlords avoid discrimination because they believe it's wrong, but smart landlords also know that violating fair housing law can lead to costly, undesirable consequences.
Despite the fact that there are many landlords who comply, some landlords don't care about fair housing compliance and instead impose their own rules on prospects and tenants. Hopefully, you won't encounter such landlords, or, at the least, you won't fall victim to discrimination when applying for or living in an apartment.
But to be prepared, it's helpful to get familiar with fair housing laws, so you'll know what you're entitled to and be able to recognize situations in which a landlord may be violating your rights. Here are some resources to check out:
- Learn about who qualifies for protection against discrimination by getting the answers to frequently asked questions about protected classes.
- Find out if your state law includes any additional protected classes.
- Learn how to identify illegal "steering," if it happens to you during your apartment search.
- Understand how the law protects families with children against discrimination.
- Learn what landlords must (and mustn't) do to avoid infringing on your housing rights if you have a disability.
Know You Have Options for Seeking Justice
Many apartment dwellers feel hopeless after encountering discrimination because they don't realize that they can pursue justice and seek redress for their harm. If you know early on that you can stand up to a landlord, property manager, broker, or other housing professional whom you believe is discriminating against you, then you shouldn't have as much reason to be fearful as you look for the perfect apartment.
If you decide you want to take legal action against a landlord, broker, property manager, or other housing professional, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at no charge, and without the need to hire an attorney.
Read more about how to pursue this option and what you can expect. Also, here's some help so you can ultimately make the right decision about whether to proceed with a complaint, if you've been considering that option.