Advertising FAQ

Fair Housing & Advertising

What is Fair Housing?

Fair housing is principles and laws which mandate equal access and opportunity in housing. Fair housing covers all housing-related activities, such as advertising, applications, amenities, management policies, terms and conditions plus termination of tenancy. Fair housing covers persons who are members of a protected class which are designated as groups of persons and their families that historically have experienced discrimination. In Massachusetts, those protected classes are race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, public assistance (including rental vouchers), military status and genetic information.

Who must follow fair housing laws?

Property owners, developers, condo associations, and homeowner associations are covered parties. Their employees, such as property managers, clerical staff, maintenance workers and all others are responsible for performing their duties in a manner consistent with fair housing. Attorneys and real estate agents must act and advise their clients in a compliant manner. Other residents in the building or development can be held responsible under fair housing laws and regulations if their behavior is considered to be discriminatory. Developers, architects and contractors can be held liable under the accessible design and construction fair housing mandates for units built for persons with disabilities and their families.

Why is advertising covered under fair housing laws?

Equal access to housing opportunity starts at the advertising and marketing stage. Discriminatory ads create a barrier to housing opportunity for protected class members. Both print and broadcast media ads are covered.

What is fair housing compliant advertising?

Housing related advertising should be done in a manner that does not exclude or discriminate against fair housing protected classes. For example, “whites only”, “no Muslim families” or “women only” are stating the owner’s intent to exclude individuals based on race, religion or gender.

Are ads that say “No Section 8”, “earned income only” or “not certified for rental vouchers” acceptable?

In Massachusetts, it is discriminatory to limit access to housing based on receipt of government assistance. Government funding would include but is not limited to veteran’s benefits, unemployment, Social Security, SSI, SSDI, food stamps, fuel assistance and all types of rental vouchers.

If a property owner is willing to rent to a Sec. 8 voucher holder can that preference be stated in the ad?

It is not advisable to do so because it could be interpreted as a preference for Sec. 8 but not for other voucher programs. It is better to advertise the property as “Equal Opportunity”.

Can a housing provider state in the ad that the property is not deleaded?

It could be interpreted that the property owner does not want children in the unit. This would be fair housing discrimination based on familial status. For more information on lead and fair housing please see Fair Housing Law and Lead.

If a property is inaccessible can it be advertised as “not good for the disabled”?

Not all persons with disabilities want or need a physically accessible unit. An ad worded in this manner sends out the message that the property owner does not want to rent to a person with a disability. If an applicant asks if the unit is accessible, you can disclose under that circumstance whether the unit is or is not physically accessible. All accessible units must be listed in the MassAccess Registry.

Some ads identify landmarks. Is that allowable?

Listing landmarks is allowable as long as they are not indicating a preference for a non- protected class member. For example, stating that a property is near the beach is fine. Stating that the property is near a specific church could be interpreted as preference for members of a particular faith.

Are ads that state “perfect for empty-nesters” allowable?

Phrases such as “empty-nesters”, “active adults”, “ideal for professional couples” etc. indicate a preference for persons without children, therefore discriminates based on familial status.

Can an ad list “no illegal immigrants”?

In non-federally funded housing, this wording indicates discrimination based on national origin, therefore it is not allowable.

Where can I get more information on my responsibilities under fair housing?

You can contact the Metro Housing|Boston Fair Housing Manager at (617) 425-6681 for assistance with any questions you may have. He/she can also provide you with appropriate referrals that would be useful.

For help with fair housing matter please contact the Fair Housing Project by email at or call  (617) 425-6681.

Communities we serve

Metro Housing|Boston serves individuals and families, as well property owners, in 30 communities throughout Greater Boston.

  • Arlington
  • Bedford
  • Belmont
  • Boston
  • Braintree
  • Brookline
  • Burlington
  • Cambridge
  • Chelsea
  • Everett
  • Lexington
  • Lynn*
  • Malden
  • Medford
  • Melrose
  • Milton
  • Newton
  • North Reading
  • Quincy
  • Reading
  • Revere
  • Somerville
  • Stoneham
  • Wakefield
  • Waltham
  • Watertown
  • Wilmington
  • Winchester
  • Winthrop
  • Woburn

*Metro Housing|Boston does not administer RAFT, Voucher Programs, or HomeBASE assistance in Lynn. See Lynn Housing Authority.
*In addition to the 30 communities listed above, Metro Housing|Boston administers rental voucher programs in Holbrook, Randolph, and Weymouth. If you are specifically seeking RAFT assistance in those communities,
you must apply instead to Housing Solutions. (