Rental Discrimination Against Immigrants

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The Fair Housing Act (a federal law) provides no prohibition against discriminating based on immigration or citizenship status, but some states and cities do offer such protection. Some related protections exist when landlords discriminate based on race, color, or national origin.

Prohibited Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Some of these characteristics may overlap with discriminatory practices. Based on these factors, a landlord cannot: refuse to rent housing; refuse to negotiate for housing; make housing unavailable; otherwise deny a dwelling; set different terms, conditions, or privileges for rental of a dwelling; provide different housing services or facilities; falsely deny that housing is available for rental; for profit, persuade homeowners to rent dwellings by suggesting that tenants of a particular protected class have moved, or are about to move into the neighborhood; or deny any tenant access to any organization, facility, or service related to the rental of dwellings, or discriminate against any tenant in the terms or conditions of such access.

Asking About Immigration Status

Landlords cannot treat tenants differently based on race, color, or nationality. In practice, this means that landlords must either implement a policy of asking all tenants about their immigration status or none of them - selectively asking just one or two individuals may mean that the landlord has violated the Fair Housing Act based on one of these factors. Whether landlords should inquire about tenants' immigration statuses depends on the jurisdiction. Some local jurisdictions prohibit landlords from renting to undocumented or illegal immigrants. The punishments is usually a small fine. In a few areas, there are criminal consequences for knowingly renting an undocumented immigrant. In those areas, landlords sometimes prefer not knowing tenants' statuses because the criminal consequence only applies if the landlord knew, but imposes no duty to ask. Evicting an undocumented immigrant can be tricky in those areas if evictions are tracked, because it may reveal the tenant's immigrant status. If a tenant reports or threatens to report housing discrimination, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate by reporting them to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or threatening to do so. For more information, see here: http://www.equalhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2012-Immigration-Status-FAQ.pdf.

Exceptions

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. Non-commercial housing operated by religious organizations can restrict their housing to persons of the same religion.

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.

Reporting Undocumented Immigrants

In areas where there are no protections against discrimination against immigrants, it may be legally permissible for landlords to report tenants to ICE. Keep in mind that it's illegal to discriminate based on national origin, so landlords must apply any policy consistently. Notably, New York City and California make illegal the act of reporting (or threatening to report) tenants to ICE as a means to evict them. More information is available here: http://www.equalhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2012-Immigration-Status-FAQ.pdf.

Prohibited Discrimination


The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Some of these characteristics may overlap with discriminatory practices. Based on these factors, a landlord cannot: refuse to rent housing; refuse to negotiate for housing; make housing unavailable; otherwise deny a dwelling; set different terms, conditions, or privileges for rental of a dwelling; provide different housing services or facilities; falsely deny that housing is available for rental; for profit, persuade homeowners to rent dwellings by suggesting that tenants of a particular protected class have moved, or are about to move into the neighborhood; or deny any tenant access to any organization, facility, or service related to the rental of dwellings, or discriminate against any tenant in the terms or conditions of such access.

Asking About Immigration Status


Landlords cannot treat tenants differently based on race, color, or nationality. In practice, this means that landlords must either implement a policy of asking all tenants about their immigration status or none of them - selectively asking just one or two individuals may mean that the landlord has violated the Fair Housing Act based on one of these factors.

Whether landlords should inquire about tenants' immigration statuses depends on the jurisdiction. Some local jurisdictions prohibit landlords from renting to undocumented or illegal immigrants. The punishments is usually a small fine. In a few areas, there are criminal consequences for knowingly renting an undocumented immigrant. In those areas, landlords sometimes prefer not knowing tenants' statuses because the criminal consequence only applies if the landlord knew, but imposes no duty to ask. Evicting an undocumented immigrant can be tricky in those areas if evictions are tracked, because it may reveal the tenant's immigrant status.

If a tenant reports or threatens to report housing discrimination, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate by reporting them to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or threatening to do so. For more information, see here: http://www.equalhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2012-Immigration-Status-FAQ.pdf.

Exceptions


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. Non-commercial housing operated by religious organizations can restrict their housing to persons of the same religion.

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.

Reporting Undocumented Immigrants


In areas where there are no protections against discrimination against immigrants, it may be legally permissible for landlords to report tenants to ICE. Keep in mind that it's illegal to discriminate based on national origin, so landlords must apply any policy consistently. Notably, New York City and California make illegal the act of reporting (or threatening to report) tenants to ICE as a means to evict them. More information is available here: http://www.equalhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2012-Immigration-Status-FAQ.pdf.

Last Update : August 27, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Discrimination Against Immigrants

almost 2 years ago
1
votes

New rules for San Jose landlords: No threatening to report undocumented immigrants as a form of harassment or eviction and no spreading utility costs across multiple apartments.
Renter in San Jose, CA, USA
Discrimination Against Immigrants
Renter in San Jose, CA, USA