A Review of the Federal Fair Housing Act
The Federal Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, was passed in 1968. It is an extension that protects families and individuals from being discriminated against by housing providers.
The classes protected from discrimination include race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital and familial status, veteran status, age, handicaps/disabilities, gender identity, sexual orientation, and public assistance. It is important to note that when Congress initially passed the Federal Fair Housing Act, the bill only included four of these protected classes-race, color, religion and national origin. Congress added coverage for sex in 1974, and disabilities and familial status in 1988.
There are certain questions that a landlord is legally not allowed to ask potential tenants. This includes questions regarding race, color, religion, sex, marital and familial status, veteran status, age, handicaps/disabilities, gender identity, sexual orientation, children, and public assistance. If a landlord were to ask a potential tenant any questions involving those topics, the potential tenants would be able to take the landlord to court. Although questions like, “Do you two plan on having children soon?” or “Are you from the Middle East?” may seem like simple “getting to know you” questions, they can lead to serious legal troubles.
If tenants run into questions like these from landlords, they are able to claim that they have experienced severe emotional distress from discrimination. Even if the tenant does end up renting from the landlord, they are still able to say that they underwent mental agony. Scenarios like these can lead a landlord to have to appear before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination or be taken to court.