The Fair Housing Act is there to protect everyone; and the key point is that United States federal law forbids discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, handicap, familial status, or national origin in the selling or renting of homes, apartments, and vacant land. (A very few exceptions do exist.) It is illegal to discriminate in the sale or renting of housing, in ads for the sale or renting of housing, misrepresentation of term or conditions for housing, in the financing of housing, in the provision of real estate brokerage services, in the appraisal of housing and by practicing blockbusting or steering.
Blockbusting, or panic peddling, is a practice where a broker or realtor hopes to profit by persuading owners to sell or rent housing by saying minority groups are moving into the neighborhood. It is a sad truth that this can convince some people to do so. Steering is the illegal practice of limiting the housing shown to a certain ethnic group. For example, a realtor or broker might purposely not provide all the options available within the criteria the client provided. Any action or words intended to influence the choice of a prospective buyer/tenant also falls under the label of steering. Threats, coercion, and intimidation with anyone exercising their Fair Housing rights or assisting someone who is, is illegal. It is also illegal to claim housing is unavailable for inspection, sale, or rent when it is available.
The Fair Housing Act applies to single-family housing owned by private individuals when a person who is in the business of selling or renting is employed and/or discriminatory ads are used. It applies to single-family housing not owned by private individuals, and to single-family housing owned by a private individual who owns more than three such dwellings or who in any 2-year period sells more than one dwelling in which they were not the most recent resident. The Act applies to multi-family dwellings of five or more units, and multi-family with four or fewer units if the owner is not in residence. Other situations are covered by the post-Civil War 1866 anti-discrimination civil rights law, including the rental of rooms or units in owner-occupied multiple dwellings for tow to four families if discriminatory ads are not used.
The Federal Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) is administered by the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) under the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Many states also have Fair Housing laws, as do a few local governments. Criminal penalties can be handed out for Fair Housing law violations, and you can file a lawsuit and/or a complaint. Violations are most often proved through the use of ‘testers’. Courts have declared that ‘testers’ do not need to be real (bona fide) purchasers or renters to prove a case. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can file a housing discrimination complaint with HUD or contact your local government for more information and the correct course of action.