Housing Discrimination Ma Fair Housing Laws In Essex County

Fair Housing In Massachusetts

When renting or buying a property, you have enough stress. Adding to that stress by experiencing any form of discrimination is unthinkable to most people. Here’s a look at fair housing laws in Essex County so you can understand your rights.

WHAT IS THE FAIR HOUSING ACT?

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, says the Fair Housing Act “protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.”

Additional protections apply to federally assisted housing. As a prominent section of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act was the first full-scale attempt by the government to decrease discrimination.

WHAT PROTECTIONS DOES IT PROVIDE?

The Fair Housing Act explicitly provides protections against discrimination on the basis of:

  • Color
  • Race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex (added in 1974)
  • Disability (added in 1988)
  • Familial status (added in 1988)

MASSACHUSETTS HAS EXPANDED THE FEDERAL LAW UNDER THE STATE FAIR HOUSING ACT

In Massachusetts , it is unlawful   for a housing provider to discriminate against a current or prospective tenant based on: 

  • Color
  • Race
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Sex
  • Familial Status (i.e. children/pregnancy/extended family) 
  • Disability
  • Source of Income (i.e. A Section 8 voucher) 
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Age
  • Marital Status
  • Veteran or Active Military Status
  • Genetic Information

WHAT ACTIONS ARE PROHIBITED UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT?

Along with the above forms of discrimination, there are specific actions that cannot be taken by sellers and landlords according to fair housing laws in Essex County. Some of these prohibited actions include:

  • Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate
  • Set different terms and conditions
  • Advertising housing limited to a specific group or class of people
  • Eviction of tenant or tenant’s guest
  • Limit access to services and facilities

There are many more strictly related to the sale or rental of property, but others also fall into the categories of mortgage lending and harassment.

WHAT CAN SOMEONE DO IF THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE THE VICTIM OF DISCRIMINATION?

There are two major things you can do if you believe you are the victim of discrimination per fair housing laws in Essex County: file a complaint with HUD, and consult an attorney.

Filing a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development can be done either by mail, email/online, or phone. All of these methods can be accessed through the HUD website at HUD.gov or by contacting your local HUD office.

When you file your complaint, you will be required to give a full and thorough report of the incident. Keep in mind that it is illegal for anyone to retaliate against anyone who has filed a complaint with HUD or in any way participated in the investigation or possible court proceedings related to the complaint.

Consulting an attorney prior to making the complaint may be a good idea, as an attorney may be able to better help you understand any possible discrimination you have experienced.

ARE THERE ANY EXEMPTIONS?

There are a few exemptions from the Fair Housing Act and fair housing laws in Essex County. These include single-family homes that are rented or sold without using a broker, owner-occupied homes with no more than four units, and members-only private clubs or organizations.

HOW IS THE FAIR HOUSING ACT ENFORCED?

HUD uses two major forms of enforcement for the Fair Housing Act.

First, housing testers are individuals who act as potential renters and homebuyers to make sure discriminatory practices aren’t being experienced through the rental or buying process. They monitor transactions to ensure no discrimination is taking place.

Second, HUD takes individual complaints very seriously, and they have teams that investigate complaints thoroughly in order to make sure the law is obeyed.

One thing to note is that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was ruled a protected class by a federal court in 2017. However, the Fair Housing Act and Civil Rights Acts have not been amended to include these two protected classes.

If you feel you are being discriminated against, please contact HUD at HUD.gov or through your local HUD office.

If you are looking for a place to live and have questions about the fair housing laws in Essex County, contact us at (978) 877-2873!

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