Homebuyer Fact Sheet

What is Fair Housing?

Fair housing is a set of principles and laws that mandate equal access and opportunity in housing. Fair housing covers all housing-related activities, from search and application to 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 classes are race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, public assistance (including rental vouchers), genetic information, and military status.

What types of housing is covered by fair housing?

Fair housing laws apply to most types of housing. The private real estate market and all types of government-funded housing must be compliant. Fair housing laws are not restricted to rentals. Condos, co-ops, “rent-to-own” and single-family ownership units are covered as well.

Who must follow fair housing laws?

Property owners, developers, condo associations, and homeowner associations are covered parties under fair housing laws. 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

What types of housing activities are covered under fair housing?

Most housing-related activities are covered to some extent by fair housing laws and regulations. Below are some of the more typical activities but this is not an all-inclusive list.

  • Advertising.
  • Tenant screening.
  • Determination of eligibility.
  • Leasing – Policies and their implementation such as “no pets,” “deposits,” or “terms and conditions of tenancy,” “housekeeping standards.”
  • Relations between residents.
  • Provision of amenities – Provision of reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications for persons with disabilities and individuals associated with persons with disabilities.
  • Eviction and other termination of residency actions

What home purchase actions if based on protected class membership are not allowed under fair housing?

  • Refusal to grant a mortgage loan
  • Refusal to provide information regarding loans
  • Appraising property in a manner that would discriminate against a protected class member. Refusal to purchase a loan or set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan. Applying different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees.

Are all loans and mortgages covered under fair housing?

The terms and conditions of both prime and subprime loans/mortgages must be compliant with fair housing. Persons should not be steered to subprime loans or less favorable mortgage products solely because they are members of a fair housing protected class.

How can I tell if I am being steered to a less favorable mortgage or other loan product because of my protected class membership?

Before applying for any mortgage or loan or providing any personal information ask what the specific qualifying terms are such as credit scores, amount of personal funds available for a down payment, years of employment, etc. If you meet those terms but are being directed away from a prime loan and instructed to apply for a subprime loan, there is the possibility that you are being discriminated against due to your protected class membership.

Are there other types of fair housing discrimination that I should be aware of?

Yes, often members of protected classes are being limited to specific geographic areas or neighborhoods because of their race, ethnicity, familial status or sexual orientation. If you are routinely being told that there are no listings in the areas that you were prefer to live in and are being directed to areas that you have not identified as a preference, there is the possibility that you are being discriminated against due to your protected class membership.

Does Metro Housing|Boston provide information on fair housing to persons trying to purchase a home?

Yes, you can contact the Metro Housing|Boston Fair Housing Manager at (617) 425-6681 for technical assistance.

Can I get more information on my fair housing rights from Metro Housing|Boston?

You can file a fair housing complaint with the federal or state authorities listed below or file a civil action law suit. You also can contact the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston for advocacy assistance. If you file with the federal or state fair housing authorities, you do not need an attorney and there are no filing fees.

What can I do if I think that I have been discriminated against?

You can contact the Fair Housing Manager at (617) 425-6681. He/she will discuss with you, your protections under both the state and federal fair housing laws. He/she also can assist you on where best to file a complaint.

Where can I get more information on fair housing?

You can contact the Metro Housing|Boston Fair Housing Manager at (617) 425-6681 for technical assistance with any questions you may have. You can also contact any of these fair housing resources:

Cambridge Human Rights Commission

51 Inman Street, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: (617) 349-4396
TTY: (617) 492-0235

MA Commission Against Discrimination

One Ashburton Place
Rm. 601
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 994-6000
TTY: (617) 994-6196


10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222-1092
Phone: (617) 994-8300 or
(800) 827-5005
TTY: (617) 565-5453

Boston Fair Housing Commission

1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 0220
Phone: (617) 635.4408

For help with fair housing matter please contact the Fair Housing Project by email at fairhousing@metrohousingboston.org 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. (http://housingsolutionssema.org).