When Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968, one of its primary goals was to prohibit race discrimination in sales and rentals of housing. Nevertheless, more than 50 years later, race discrimination in housing continues to be a problem in North Carolina and throughout the U.S.
What Is Race Discrimination?
Race refers to whether a person is White, Black/African American, Asian, American Indian or an Alaska Native, or is a Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or some mixture of two or more of these groups. Under the Fair Housing Act, national origin refers to a person’s birthplace or ancestry, such as someone who is Latino/a or Hispanic or from another country or region of the world. To learn more about national origin housing discrimination, click here.
It is illegal for housing providers – such as landlords, property manager, real estate agents, brokers, mortgage lenders, and insurance companies – to treat someone differently because of his or her actual race or perceived race, or because the person is multiracial or in a relationship with someone of a different race.
A housing provider may also not discriminate against a current or prospective tenant because they associate with people of a particular race. For example, a White tenant cannot be treated differently because he or she has African American guests.
Sometimes, housing providers try to disguise their discrimination by giving false information about availability of housing, either saying that nothing was available or steering homeseekers to certain areas based on race. Individuals who receive such false information or misdirection may have no knowledge that they have been victims of discrimination.
Race discrimination may be closely related to color discrimination (and sometimes national origin discrimination). In some instances an act of discrimination against someone could be considered both race and color discrimination.
What Is Color Discrimination?
Color refers to the visible color of a person’s skin; that is, whether a person’s skin is light or dark.
It is illegal for housing providers – such as landlords, property manager, real estate agents, brokers, mortgage lenders, and insurance companies – to treat someone differently because of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of whether that person has lighter or darker skin. Color discrimination can involve someone of a different race or the same race. For example, if a landlord or other housing provider only rented to light-skinned African Americans, but not those who are darker-skinned, that would be an example of color discrimination, regardless of the race of the landlord.
Color discrimination may be closely related to race discrimination (and sometimes national origin discrimination). In some instances an act of discrimination against someone could be considered both race and color discrimination.
Discrimination includes refusing to rent or sell, or charging more or offering different terms to someone, because of his or her race or color. Housing providers are prohibited from making discriminatory statements or publishing discriminatory advertising, as well as from making false statements about availability.
In some instances, refusing to rent to someone because of his or her criminal history may also constitute unlawful discrimination. The guides below provide general information about fair housing and criminal background screening for applicants and tenants in North Carolina:
- Fair housing and criminal background screening guide in private renting housing.
- Fair housing and criminal background screening guide in public housing or housing assisted with Section 8 vouchers.
- Fair housing and criminal background screening guide in Low Income Housing Tax Credit properties.
In addition, local government zoning and other land use decisions that reinforce patterns of racial segregation could be unlawful. Contact the Fair Housing Project for more information by clicking here or calling 855-797-3247.
Harassment and Retaliation
Harassing someone, or retaliating against or interfering with someone who is attempting to exercise their fair housing rights, is also prohibited.
What Properties are Covered?
The Fair Housing Act covers most residential units, such as:
- Group homes
- Shelters (homeless & domestic violence)
- Migrant housing
- Long term transient lodging
There are limited exceptions for some housing, including owner-occupied buildings of 4 or fewer units and some single-family homes. In addition, religious organizations and private clubs who rent housing for non-profit purposes may favor their members. Contact the Fair Housing Project for more information by clicking here or calling 855-797-3247.
Who Must Comply?
The Fair Housing Act applies to a wide variety of housing transactions, including rentals, sales, home mortgages, appraisals, and homeowners insurance. Landlords, property managers, real estate agents, lenders, insurance companies, homeowners associations, condo boards, and others are prohibited from discriminating against someone based on their membership in a protected class.
The following statements may indicate possible discrimination:
“Sorry, but after we spoke on the phone we rented the last unit.”
“You would feel more comfortable in a different neighborhood.”
“None of your kind of people live in this area.”
“You don’t want to live in that neighborhood.”
“We only rent to people who speak English.”
“We have a strict policy: if you have an arrests history, you cannot rent here.”
What you should do if you believe you have experienced housing discrimination:
- Contact the Fair Housing Project and report the discrimination to us.
- Keep a journal of incidents of discrimination.
- Write down what you experienced, including names, dates, addresses, rental terms, and any other details about your interaction.
- Keep any documents related to the discrimination, including all emails and text communications.
- Following the incident, you have one year to file an administrative complaint or two years to file a lawsuit in court.
Contact the Fair Housing Project. The Fair Housing Project is available to provide information concerning a person’s rights under the federal Fair Housing Act. If you believe you are a victim of housing discrimination, contact us by clicking here or by phone at 1-855-797-3247.