Fifty-five years after its enactment, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status when individuals or families seek housing. The Georgia Fair Housing Law, passed 35 years ago, mirrors the federal statute and protects individuals and families in housing-related transactions, such as renting an apartment, taking out a mortgage for a new home, or purchasing homeowners insurance.
Setting out these protected classes make landlords, lenders, real estate agents, homeowners’ associations, and insurance companies aware that it is against the law to discriminate against individuals and families based on one or more of the following characteristics:
- Race refers to whether someone is White, Black/African American, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or is a member of two or more of these groups.
- National origin references an individual’s birthplace or ancestry.
- Color refers to the visible color of someone’s skin.
- Religion includes both the practice of a religious tradition and the non-practice of one. It also includes religious practices that are not considered inside mainstream religious traditions.
- Sex refers to an individual’s biological sex, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity.
- Familial Status means there are children under the age of 18 living in a household. Pregnant women and families going through the adoption process are included in this protected class. Children can also include foster children and grandchildren if the individual has legal custody or written permission.
- Disability means that an individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, such as performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, learning, working, and caring for one’s self.
What Conduct is Prohibited?
Discrimination in housing includes activities such as refusing to rent or sell to someone, charging different rates, or offering different terms based on these characteristics. It could also include making discriminatory statements or disseminating discriminatory advertising. It also prohibits making false statements about the availability of housing to members of a protected class.
Who Must Comply with Fair Housing Laws?
Fair Housing laws apply to various entities. Landlords, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, real estate agents, property managers, homeowner associations, and condo boards are prohibited from discriminating against an individual or family based on their membership in a protected class. The laws apply to various transactions that involve these entities and those seeking housing, including taking out a home mortgage, getting an appraisal, purchasing homeowners insurance, and renting or selling a home.
Anti-discrimination laws give people recourse when they believe they have experienced discrimination based on their race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status. Next week, we will cover resources available to people to ensure compliance with Fair Housing laws, and what to do if you think you have been discriminated against while seeking housing.