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Federal Landlord - Tenant Law

Various federal, state and local laws and ordinances protect housing rights.

Federal statutes affect the state Landlord Tenants Acts. Potentially applicable laws include the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 USC 3602 et seq.), the Americans With Disabilities Act (42 USC 12101) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 701).

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate because of a person's race, sex, national origin or religion. Some local laws forbid discrimination against unmarried persons, children, homosexuals, disabled persons or others.

Federal housing law prohibits a variety of discriminatory conduct:

  1. Advertising cannot contain any statement indicating a preference or limitation based on any of the protected classes listed above.
  2. The landlord may not make any similar implication or statement.
  3. A landlord cannot say that an apartment is not available when in fact it is available.
  4. A landlord cannot use a different set of rules for assessing applicants belonging to a protected class.
  5. A landlord cannot refuse to rent to persons in a protected class.
  6. A landlord cannot provide different services or facilities to tenants in a protected class or require a larger deposit, or treat late rental payments differently.
  7. A landlord cannot end a tenancy for a discriminatory reason.
  8. A landlord cannot harass you.

It is important to remember that the federal housing statutes do not apply to all rental property. The main exceptions are owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units (e.g., a duplex), housing offered by religious groups or private organizations for their members, housing designated for senior citizens, and single-family housing being rented without discriminatory advertising or a real estate broker.

Because landlord-tenant laws vary significantly depending on where you live, it's important to check your state laws for specifics.