Fair Housing

Housing discrimination is not only illegal, it contradicts in every way the principles of freedom and opportunity we treasure as Americans. 

Fair housing and fair lending laws were enacted to insure equal and fair access to housing, insurance, lending and financial services.  Fair lending laws require equal opportunity without regard to an applicant’s personal characteristics or the racial or ethnic demographics of the neighborhood in which a property is located. These laws protect the rights of consumers and housing providers. 

Here are some brochures with further information (.pdf):


Q:     What is the Fair Housing Act?

A:     The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability in the following residential real estate related transactions. 

  • Leasing an apartment
  • Selling a home
  • Making available mortgage loans
  • Providing information on mortgage loans
  • The terms and conditions of a mortgage loan (for example: offering a different interest rate, points or fees that vary as to personal characteristics)
  • Appraising real estate.

Q:     What housing is covered? 

A:     The Fair Housing Act covers most housing.  The exemptions not covered by the Fair Housing Act are:

  • Owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units;
  • Single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker;
  • Housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

Q:    What is prohibited?

A:     In the sale and rental of housing and in mortgage lending:  No one may take any discriminatory actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability per the Fair Housing Act.  In Rhode Island, state law also prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of military status, marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or status as a victim of domestic abuse. 

In addition, it is illegal for anyone to:

  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Fair Housing Act.

Q:    What is housing discrimination?

A:     Housing discrimination comes in many forms and is often subtle. Some signs of possible discrimination include:

  • A refusal to sell, rent, or show available housing
  • Requiring different terms and conditions for identical dwellings, i.e. charging higher rent, security deposit for different tenants
  • Being told that the dwelling isn’t right for you or your family
  • Being told that housing isn’t available in an apartment with a “For Rent” sign
  • Housing advertisements that say “no kids” or “adults only”
  • A refusal to make a reasonable accommodation or allow a modification to make the dwelling accessible for a person with a disability
  • Harassment or intimidation
  • Offering non‐standard and unfavorable terms in the purchase of a home or property insurance
  • Terms of availability that change between a phone contact and an in‐person visit
  • Being steered to racially segregated neighborhoods during your home search
  • Excessive or inappropriate questioning upon requesting information about a dwelling

Q:    What should I do if I have questions or think my rights have been violated?

A:     If you think your rights have been violated, you may contact the Boston Regional Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office at (617) 994-8300.   You can contact the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity about filing a complaint at (800) 669-9777.  For the hearing impaired, call TTY (800) 927-9275.  You can also visit HUD online by clicking here.  

The Rhode Island Human Rights Commission can also be of assistance by calling (401) 222-2661 or visiting the web site at   http://www.richr.state.ri.us/frames.html. 


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