Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia
Fair Housing Laws

Fair Housing Act

General Overview: Information for Landlords, Real Estate Professionals and Other Housing Providers

This page was developed to assist landlords, real estate professionals and other housing providers in understanding their requirements under the law. Regardless of its cause, discrimination in housing is both illegal and bad business practice.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is otherwise known as the Fair Housing Act. It states that you cannot be discriminated against in any type of housing related transaction because of your Race, Gender, Religion, National Origin or Color. This Act was amended in 1988 to include Familial Status (i.e. the presence of children under the age of 18 in a family) and Handicap. In the State of Pennsylvania, the Human Relations Act also includes the protected class of Age (for those over 40). In this area, the Cities of Reading and Philadelphia also have local coverage and include other protected classes such as Marital Status, Sexual Preference and Source of Income. It is wise to determine if your state or locality has its own Human Relations Act that includes different protected classes.

What Housing is covered?  
All single family homes are covered by the act when they are owned by private persons and a real estate broker is used, and all single family homes owned by corporations or partnerships regardless of whether a broker is used. All Multifamily dwellings are covered by the Act, including townhouse and condominium communities. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is called the “Mrs. Murphy’s exemption.” This exemption states that if the dwelling has four or less units and the owner lives in one of the units, it is exempt from the Fair Housing Act. The second is for qualified senior housing which is exempt only from the Familial Status provision of the act. To be a qualified senior community you must meet the following standards: Either 100% of the community is 62 or older, or 80% of the households have at least one resident 55 or older. None of this housing is exempt from section 804(c) of the Act which states that you cannot make, print or publish a discriminatory statement. Any exempt housing that violates 804(c) has lost that exemption and can be held liable under the Act.

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is against the law to:  

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable or deny that housing is available
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for the sale or rental of housing
  • Advertise in a discriminatory way
  • Blockbust — persuade owners to sell or rent by telling them that minority groups are moving into the neighborhood
  • Deny or make different terms or conditions for a mortgage, home loan, home insurance, or other real estate related transaction
  • Threaten, coerce or intimidate anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others in exercising those rights

For more information about your responsibilities under the law, please read our Provider Guide.

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