Rental Discrimination: Drug or Alcohol Addiction

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Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot discriminate based on disability, which extends to drug and alcohol addiction under subsequent federal regulations. Recovering addicts cannot be denied housing, though current users of illegal drugs can.

Addiction vs Current Drug Use

While addiction itself is protected as a disability, current illegal drug activity isn't. The Fair Housing Act does not bar discrimination against tenants who are current illegal drug abusers or tenants who have been convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of drugs. Illegal drug activity doesn’t include drinking. It’s an open question whether marijuana is an illegal drug in states that have legalized it for recreational purposes. Use of controlled substances or misusing prescription pills can be considered current illegal drug activity.

Exceptions

In some circumstances, these rental discrimination rules do not apply to owner-occupied buildings with less than five units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. In those buildings, landlords may deny, penalize, or evict someone for their addiction.

Filing a Complaint

Under the Fair Housing Act, victims of rental discrimination have one year to file an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and two years to file a private lawsuit. Tenants can learn more about how to file a complaint here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/complaint-process. To file a complaint under state laws (i.e., for discrimination based on immigration or citizenship status), tenants should contact their state or local housing authorities.

Addiction vs Current Drug Use


While addiction itself is protected as a disability, current illegal drug activity isn't. The Fair Housing Act does not bar discrimination against tenants who are current illegal drug abusers or tenants who have been convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of drugs. Illegal drug activity doesn’t include drinking. It’s an open question whether marijuana is an illegal drug in states that have legalized it for recreational purposes. Use of controlled substances or misusing prescription pills can be considered current illegal drug activity.

Exceptions


In some circumstances, these rental discrimination rules do not apply to owner-occupied buildings with less than five units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. In those buildings, landlords may deny, penalize, or evict someone for their addiction.

Filing a Complaint


Under the Fair Housing Act, victims of rental discrimination have one year to file an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and two years to file a private lawsuit. Tenants can learn more about how to file a complaint here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/complaint-process. To file a complaint under state laws (i.e., for discrimination based on immigration or citizenship status), tenants should contact their state or local housing authorities.

Last Update : July 22, 2018 UTC

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