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U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section

Frequently Asked Questions


 

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, nationalorigin, familial status, or disability by housing providers, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions, and homeowners insurance companies.

How does the Department of Justice enforce the Fair Housing Act?

Under the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Justice may start a lawsuit where it has reason to believe that a person or entity is engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination or where a denial of rights to a group of persons raises an issue of general public importance. Through these lawsuits, the Department can obtain money damages, both actual and punitive damages, for those individuals harmed by a defendant's discriminatory actions as well as preventing any further discriminatory conduct. The defendant may also be required to pay money penalties to the United States. If you have information that suggests a pattern or practice of discrimination in housing, please contact us.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] nvestigates individual cases of discrimination in housing. If HUD determines that reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred, then either the complainant or the respondent (the person against whom the complaint was filed) may elect to have the case heard in federal court. In those instances, the Department of Justice will bring the case on behalf of the individual complainant.

In addition, where force or a threat of force is used to deny or interfere with fair housing rights, the Department of Justice may begin criminal proceedings.

Finally, in cases involving discrimination in home mortgage loans or home improvement loans, the Department may file suit under both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

What do I do if I believe I have been the victim of illegal discrimination in housing?

Individuals who believe that they have been victims of an illegal housing practice may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. You must file the complaint with HUD within one year of the incident you believe to be housing discrimination. If you choose to file your own lawsuit in federal or state court, the Act requires that you do so within two years of the incident.

Does the Fair Housing Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation?

When sexual orientation is the only basis of discrimination, no. However, we evaluate these complaints on a case-by-case basis to determine whether any other form of discrimination is present (such as sex or disability, for example). In addition, many state and local laws prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation. You should consult with your local or state civil rights enforcement agency to determine whether discrimination on this basis is protected.

What is the Equal Credit Opportunity Act?

Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a creditor may not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, age, or source of income in any credit transaction.

How does the Department of Justice enforce the Equal Credit Opportunity Act?

The Department of Justice may start a lawsuit where it has reason to believe that a creditor is engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination. Through these lawsuits, the Department can obtain money damages, both actual and punitive damages, for those individuals harmed by a defendant's discriminatory actions as well as preventing further discrimination by the defendant. If you have information that suggests a pattern or practice of discrimination in credit, please contact us.

What do I do if I believe that I have been the victim of an unfair credit transaction involving residential property?

Individuals who believe that they have been victims of an illegal housing practice, such as the denial of a mortgage, that involved credit may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD]. hat is Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

This law prohibits discrimination because of a person's race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment.

How does the Department of Justice enforce Title II?

When there is reason to believe that a person or entity has engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination, which violates Title II, the Department of Justice can bring a lawsuit. However, unlike lawsuits enforcing the Fair Housing Act or the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Department can not obtain monetary damages for individuals in Title II cases. If you have information that suggests a pattern or practice of discrimination in public accomodations, please contact us.

What do I do if I believe that I have been the victim of discrimination under Title II?

Individuals who believe that a place of public accommodation has violated Title II may file their own lawsuit in federal court. In addition, you may some rights under other federal laws, state laws, or local ordinances and should consult with your local or state civil rights enforcement agency.

What is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)?

This law prohibits local governments from adopting or enforcing land use regulations that discriminate against religious assemblies and institutions or which unjustifiably burden religious exercise. 

How does the Department of Justice enforce the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)?

The Department can investigate and bring suit to enforce the statute on behalf of individuals, houses of worship or other religious institutions. The Department may obtain injunctive, but not monetary relief. Individuals may file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. If you believe your rights against discriminatory or unjustifiably burdensome zoning and landmarking laws have been violated please contact us.

U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section

Fair Housing Laws and Presidential Executive Orders


The Fair Housing Laws:

Fair Housing Act
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents of legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability). More on the Fair Housing Act

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial
assistance.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Section 109 of Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974
Section 109 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion in programs and activities receiving financial assistance from HUD's Community Development and Block Grant Program.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Title II prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs, services, and activities provided or made available by public entities. HUD enforces Title II when it relates to state and local public housing, housing assistance and housing referrals.

Architectural Barriers Act of 1968
The Architectural Barriers Act requires that buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered, or leased with certain federal funds after September 1969 must be accessible to and useable by handicapped persons.

Age Discrimination Act of 1975
The Age Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.


Fair Housing-Related Presidential Executive Orders:

Executive Order 11063
Executive Order 11063 prohibits discrimination in the sale, leasing, rental, or other disposition of properties and facilities owned or operated by the federal government or provided with federal funds.

Executive Order 11246
Executive Order 11246, as amended, bars discrimination in federal employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Executive Order 12892
Executive Order 12892, as amended, requires federal agencies to affirmatively further fair housing in their programs and activities, and provides that the Secretary of HUD will be responsible for coordinating the effort. The Order also establishes the President's Fair Housing Council, which will be chaired by the Secretary of HUD.

Executive Order 12898
Executive Order 12898 requires that each federal agency conduct its program, policies, and activities that substantially affect human health or the environment in a manner that does not exclude persons based on race, color, or national origin.

Executive Order 13166
Executive Order 13166 eliminates, to the extent possible, limited English proficiency as a barrier to full and meaningful participation by beneficiaries in all federally-assisted and federally conducted programs and activities.

Executive Order 13217
Executive Order 13217 requires federal agencies to evaluate their policies and programs to determine if any can be revised or modified to improve the availability of community-based living arrangements for persons with disabilities.


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Related Information


-   Administrative Law Judges -   Discrimination Complaint -   Equal Opportunity for All Booklet - English -   Equal Opportunity for All - Spanish -   Fair Housing Act Design Manual -   Fair Housing Regulations -   Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act -   HUD's Advertising guidance-   Post-9/11 Guidance for Landlords -   Presidential Executive Orders