Q: What is the Federal Fair Housing Law?

A: The 1866 Act provides that:

All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.

In 1968 in Jones vs. Mayer, the US Supreme Court held that the 1866 Act Prohibits ALL forms of racial discrimination in real estate, whether committed by government or private parties. Persons suing under the 1866 Act are entitled to recover actual and punitive damages, and their attorneys’ fees and costs.

5 Types of Discrimination Prohibited Under Title VIII

Title VIII is a comprehensive federal fair housing law that addresses not only racial discrimination, but also discrimination on the basis of religion, color, national origin, sex, handicap and family status. Title VIII prohibits five different types of discrimination.

  1. refusal to sell or rent, or otherwise making unavailable a dwelling because of a protected classification;
  2. discrimination in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental, or in the provision of services in connection therewith;
  3. use of advertising that expresses a preference for persons of a particular race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or familial status;
  4. representations of dwelling not available for sale or rent, when in fact the dwelling is available;
  5. attempts to induce a person to sell or rent a dwelling by referring to the prospective entry of persons of a particular race, color, sex, religion, national origin, handicap or familial status into the area.

In addition to prohibiting specific practices involving the sale or rental of dwellings, Title VIII also prohibits discrimination in financing of housing, or red lining, as well as discrimination in access to a board of REALTORS®, multiple listing services, or other services, organizations, or facilities that relate to the business of selling or renting dwellings.

Find more common real estate questions and answers in the Desktop Reference Guide.

The Minnesota Association of REALTORS® is the largest professional trade association in the state with more than 17,000 members who are active in all aspects of the real estate industry. 


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