If you are denied an opportunity to buy or rent a home or apartment—or given false information by a housing provider—because of your religion, you are a victim of illegal housing discrimination. It is also illegal for landlords or other housing providers to treat in-place residents differently because of their religion (or because they are agnostics or atheists).
Religious discrimination can include:
- Advertising statements that give the impression that a certain religious group is preferred, like “conveniently located near XYZ Church” (or synagogue, or temple).
- Refusing to rent or sell based on someone’s religion or religious beliefs.
- Questioning housing applicants or residents about their religious beliefs or attempting to convert them to a particular religious faith.
- Allowing the outdoor display of Christmas lights and other decorations while refusing to allow residents of other religions to decorate in celebration of their religious holidays.
- Failure to investigate or take appropriate action to protect a resident from religious harassment by another tenant.
Religious organizations that provide housing specifically for members of their own faith and do not offer housing to the general public may be exempt from religious discrimination complaints (i.e., housing in a monastery, convent, or housing facility for religious workers; or a retirement community that provides housing only for former religious workers). In addition, some religious organizations’ substance abuse recovery or other programs may be exempt even though they provide housing for program participants.
Fair housing laws permit religious organizations, as well as secular organizations, to be involved actively in caring for the needs of their members and reaching out to meet the needs of those who are poor, disabled, or neglected. However, when religious organizations receive government funding or offer housing to the broader community, they should be careful to separate their religious activities from their housing operations.
If you believe you denied a housing opportunity or treated unfairly because of your religion, contact the GBLA Fair Housing Law Project.