Immigration and The Fair Housing Act


Immigration Fair Housing Act

The national dialog about immigration raises questions on whether landlords may inquire about a prospective tenant’s status during the application process. HUD has issued guidance through its “Did You Know That” campaign that housing discrimination against immigrants or because of a person’s national origin is illegal.

The fair housing law protects everyone in the U.S., regardless of their citizenship status. Prospective tenants cannot be screened based on race, color or national origin. Discrimination in any housing related transaction based on a person’s national origin or immigration status violates the fair housing act. As part of the campaign HUD counsels that housing providers (landlords, agents, mortgage companies, HOA’s) cannot do the following because of a person’s immigration status or national origin:

  • You cannot be evicted from housing
  • Rules cannot unfairly target immigrants
  • You cannot be denied a housing application
  • You cannot be denied housing for sale or rent
  • You cannot be charged more rent or related fees
  • You cannot be assigned to one area of a building or complex
  • Advertisements cannot state that immigrants are not wanted
  • A real estate agent cannot steer you to one neighborhood or area
  • You cannot be required to show extra forms of identification to apply for housing, like a green card, passport or social security card

On this topic, HUD has provided a useful FAQ publication. HUD defines national origin discrimination as different treatment in housing because of a person’s ancestry, ethnicity, birthplace, culture or language. In application, this means that people cannot be denied housing based on membership in any national origin group. Some examples of possible fair housing discrimination based on national origin include:

  • Refusing to rent to a person whose primary language is not English,
  • Offering different rent rates based on ethnicity,
  • Steering buyers or tenants away from certain neighborhoods based on their ethnicity,
  • Failing to provide the same level of service because a buyer or tenant was born in another country.

Landlords are permitted to ask for identity documents provided (i) all applicants are asked, and (ii) the documents are used for identification purposes for performing a credit check or fitness as a tenant. A person’s immigration status alone is not a legal basis for denying housing.

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