If you're renting or looking for an apartment in Texas, you're covered by the Fair Housing Act, which protects tenants and prospective tenants alike from illegal housing discrimination based on several protected classes.
Who Is Protected Under the Law?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in home sales, financing, and rentals based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Under the law, apartment dwellers in all parts of Texas have the right to enjoy their housing without facing discrimination based on seven protected classes. They include:
- Race: Landlords cannot consider the race of a tenant or prospective tenant when making decisions about their housing.
- Color: The color of a prospective tenant or buyer cannot play any role in a person's ability to have access to housing.
- Religion: The religion you practice or do not practice, cannot give you preferential treatment or cause you to not be considered for a property.
- National origin: Where your family is from should not play into a landlord or sellers decision to rent or sell their property to you.
- Sex: Landlords cannot consider the sex of a tenant or prospective tenant when making decisions about their housing.
- Disability: Under the law, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit one or more major life activities. This can include things such as chronic illness, mental illness, HIV or AIDS, alcoholism or a physical handicap, among others.
- Familial status: This class covers children under 18 living with parents or others with legal custody, or with a designee of the parent with written permission, a person who is pregnant or a person who is seeking custody of a person under 18. Not only can landlords not refuse to sell or rent to families with children, but they may not deem a property "adults only." Also, if you are charged a per person rental fee, this may be considered discrimination based on familial status.
While some states offer protections for additional classes, such as sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status, Texas does not.
How to Spot Discrimination
Understanding if you are being discriminated against is the first step toward seeking justice. According to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, these are some discriminatory practices to look out for in a landlord or prospective landlord:
- Lying about or misrepresenting the availability of housing when housing is available
- Requiring different terms or conditions based solely on a household member's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability
- Advertising that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability
- Harassment or intimidation such as verbal threats, vandalism, or unwanted sexual advances
- A refusal to make reasonable accommodations for a person with disabilities
- Being steered to properties, buildings, or units on one side of a complex based solely on factors related to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, regardless of other available options
If you feel you have been discriminated against in your apartment search, contact your local housing authority.