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Fair Housing

Fair Housing

What is Fair Housing?

Whether you are selling or renting a home for yourself or your family, it is important to understand your rights under Fair Housing laws!

Fair Housing choice is the ability of individuals with similar income levels to have available to them the same housing choices and equal treatment in their search for housing. In an effort to end housing segregation, in 1968, the United States Congress passed Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act making acts of housing discrimination against certain protected classes illegal.

Federal and State Laws make it illegal to discriminate against people when renting or purchasing a home based on the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Ancestry
  • Marital Status
  • Familial Status
  • Veteran History / Military Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Source of Income

What type of housing is covered by Fair Housing laws?

  • Single-family homes owned by private persons when a real estate broker and/or discriminatory advertising is used to rent or sell the home
  • Single-family homes not owned by private persons (such as corporations or partnerships), even if a broker is not used to rent or sell the home
  • Owner-occupied multi-family buildings when a real estate broker and/or discriminatory advertising is used to rent or sell the home
  • Multi-family buildings with four or fewer units, if the owner does not live in one of the units
  • Multi-family buildings with fiver or more units, including rooming houses

Avoid breaking Fair Housing laws!

  • Be consistent: Use a standard process with all applicants
  • Avoid assumptions: Assess individuals based on the requirements you develop and not based on anything else
  • Document your search: Keep selection criteria and rental policy in writing and document your reason for refusing an applicant
  • Don’t be helpful at your own expense:  Allow each person to decide for themselves where they want to live (e.g., Don’t tell a tenant with kids that it would be safer on the first floor or ask a disabled person if they can manage the stairs)
  • Fair housing is ongoing: Fair housing does not end when you find a tenant, make sure all rental policies and services are applied equally to all tenants

Important notes to keep in mind!

  • Landlords have the right to choose the best tenant for their unit using this criteria as long as it is applied equally to all applicants:
    • Credit check
    • References from previous landlords
    • Sufficient funds to cover the cost of rent
    • Criminal record check
  • Lead Paint
    • Massachusetts Lead Paint law makes it illegal for a property owner or real estate agent to refuse to sell or rent a home to a family with children because of the presence of lead paint in the home.
    • For more information contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

How do you recognize housing discrimination?

If you are a member of a protected class, it is illegal for someone to:

  • Refuse to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing on the basis of the characteristics of a protected class
  • Deny that housing is available if it truly is
  • Set different terms or conditions for the sale or rental of a property
  • Show you only homes or apartments in certain neighborhoods
  • Advertise housing to preferred groups of people only
  • Refuse to provide you with information regarding mortgages loans, deny you a mortgage loan simply based on characteristics of a protected class, or set different terms or conditions on a mortgage loan
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations for persons with a disability if the accommodation may be necessary to afford such a person a reasonable and equal opportunity to live in the home
  • Intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising or assisting someone else with his/her fair housing rights

Examples of behaviors that may be housing discrimination include:

  • You call and get an appointment to look at a house, but when you get there, you are told that the house was just sold
  • You are told that an apartment has been rented, but it is listed in the paper again
  • You are told a higher selling price than what was advertised, or that you heard others being told
  • You are given different terms or conditions for signing a lease than other applicants
  • You are told that they cannot rent to families with children because the house has lead paint
  • You are directed to or away from certain neighborhoods based on race or national origin

Information on Fair Housing is also available in the following languages:


  • The Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) is an assessment of how local laws, government practices, real estate practices and other local conditions affect the location, availability, and accessibility of housing.  The AI also identifies areas where correction actions might broaden housing options protected by fair housing laws.  This document is prepared by the City of Lowell in conjunction with the Consolidated Plan process every five years. 
  • The Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Plan outlines the actions that the City will take to communicate with residents qualifying for federally assisted programs who need services or information in a language other than English. 
  • Learn about your rights as a tenant.
  • Learn about your rights as a landlord.