By MyNewPlace Guest Blogger, Ron Leshnower – About.com’s Apartment Living Expert!
Most renters think about housing discrimination only if they believe they’ve experienced it. But it’s a good idea to become aware of housing discrimination basics when you conduct an apartment search and after you’ve signed a lease and have settled into your apartment. Knowing your rights can help you spot illegal discrimination and possibly take action to end it or seek compensation for any loss you suffered. Here are two fair housing fundamentals that every renter should keep in mind:
1. Discrimination isn’t limited to rejection and eviction.
Securing and keeping a rental are the two most obvious situations in which housing discrimination may occur. For example, if a landlord rejects your apartment application because of your race or tries to evict you because you mentioned that you’re expecting a child, you may have a valid claim against the landlord under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Although many fair housing cases have focused on landlords who allegedly denied an apartment application or evicted a tenant for an illegally discriminatory reason, be aware that there are less obvious ways to discriminate. For example, say a landlord accepts your apartment application but encourages or even requires you to rent an apartment in a certain part of the building because of your race. This is a practice known as “steering.” Although it’s less direct, steering is illegal. (Read more about steering and how to spot it.)
2. Filing a fair housing complaint doesn’t have to require money or an attorney.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of illegal housing discrimination, you can file a complaint at no charge with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency charged with primary responsibility for enforcing the FHA. After completing a straightforward online form, a HUD intake specialist will contact you to determine the validity and strength of your claims. If HUD decides to take on your case, you won’t need to hire an attorney or outlay money for expensive litigation. (Learn more about pursuing a fair housing claim with HUD.)
Have legal or general apartment living questions for Ron? We’d love to pass them on – please leave them here in our comments section.