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Three Things You Need to Know about Fair Housing

April is Fair Housing Month. For many people, this may not hold much meaning, but it’s a great time to refresh your memory on the importance of the Fair Housing Act and better understand what it means for you!

The Fair Housing Act, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, applies to nearly all forms of housing, whether they are for sale or rent. FHA protects those ‘purchasing or renting a home, seeking a mortgage or housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities, such as home appraisals and securing insurance coverage’ from discrimination based on a protected class they belong to. Essentially, this means that consumers should receive the same treatment, free of discrimination, when seeking to purchase or rent, and when working within most housing-related industries. 

Here are 3 Things YOU Need to Know for Fair Housing Month:

1. Know Your Rights

You have the right to be free from discrimination based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and familial status. These are the federal protections, but there are also additional protections by state. Maine also includes receipt of public assistance and ancestry as protected classes.

You should also expect that any housing in your price range will be made available to you (ie. a real estate agent will not keep properties from you or divert you from certain communities or areas based on your membership in a protected class). Moreover, you will receive equal services from any housing-related professionals (ie. no discrimination in the financing, insurance, etc.).

You also have the right to be free from harassment and intimidation while exercising your FHA right, and to be free from questions based on your status, or presumed status, within any of the protected classes.

2. Know the Limits
As with any legislation, there are limits to FHA and it’s important to understand what is not protected. The FHA does not apply to transient occupancies, like staying in a hotel or motel, dwellings with 4 or fewer renters if it is owner-occupied, dwellings owned by a religious organization or private club, and single-family homes that are rented or sold without using a realtor. It is also important to note that FHA does not apply if a tenant has been convicted of illegally making or distributing a controlled substance. 

As you explore your housing options, keep your rights in mind, but also remember where you will, and will not, be protected by FHA.

3. Know How and Who to Contact if a Problem Occurs
File a Fair Housing Complaint with HUD
Call the HUD hotline: (800) 699-9777
File a Complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission

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