Federal Law

Some forms of housing discrimination have been illegal—on paper, at least—for almost 150 years. But it was not until the nationwide unrest after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a century later that the Fair Housing Act began the still-unfinished march toward housing equality.

The Fair Housing Act has been updated a few times since it was passed in 1968 to protect more people from discrimination. Now, we think it is fair to say that the Fair Housing Act’s protections cover everyone living in the United States.

If you or someone you know has a housing crisis, that does’t mean that the Fair Housing Act will “come to the rescue.” No law is that simple. But it does mean that if the reason behind the crisis is discriminatory, there is greater hope than ever that justice will prevail. In spite of its limitations, the Fair Housing Act—and state laws that have built upon its foundation—represent a strong commitment to equality of opportunity under law.

The Fair Housing Act and other federal laws outlaw discrimination because of a person’s:

The Fair Housing Act is a federal civil rights law. It is not an “anti-slumlord” law. It is not an “anti-favoritism” law. And it is not an “unfair business practices” law. There are other laws that come into play for all these unfair and unjust things, but they only fall under Fair Housing Act if they are done because of a someone’s protected group—or, in some cases, because these things can be shown to harm members of a protected group more than anyone else.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity accepts and investigates claims of housing discrimination that violate federal fair housing laws.