Fair Housing & Civil Rights
Fair Housing & Civil Rights
Tenant 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 does fair housing cover familial status?
It is a fair housing violation to deny equal access and opportunity in housing to families with children under the age of 18. This provision is not restricted to refusal to rent to families with children. Segregating such families or refusing to make services and property amenities available would not be allowable. A property owner can not deny a family with children under the age of 6 an apartment because it has not been deleaded. It is the responsibility of the property owner to delead the unit for these families and comply with fair housing.
What is included under the protection from discrimination based on public assistance?
You can not be denied housing if you are receiving public assistance such as rental vouchers (for example Section 8 or MRVP), food stamps, transitional assistance, Social Security, or veterans benefits, as long as you can demonstrate that you are able to pay the rent. However, this protection does not prohibit the property owner from doing a credit check.
What does fair housing cover military status?
Housing can not be denied to a person because he/she currently serves in the military, is in the National Guard, or is a veteran.
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 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.
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.
Where can I get more information on my fair housing rights?
You can contact the fair housing manager through the Metro Housing|Boston Discrimination Line at 617.425.6681. We will discuss with you your protections under both the state and federal fair housing laws. We can also refer you to agencies for advocacy assistance or to file a complaint.
What can I do if I think that I have been discriminated against?
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.
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
MA Commission Against Discrimination
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
HUD FHEO Region I
10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222-1092
Phone: 617.994.8300 or
For help with fair housing, please contact Barbara Chandler, Senior Advisor on Civil Rights and Fair Housing at 617-425-6681 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know your rights.
If you feel you may have been discriminated against regarding your housing situation, our fact sheets are here to help.