Complying with State and Local Fair Housing Laws

The August 2011 issue of Fair Housing Coach reviews the most common forms of additional protections available under state or local law. And, as an extra bonus, we’ve included a table to provide a state-by-state snapshot of current state fair housing laws. Here are some highlights from the August issue:

Comply with laws protecting marital status. At last count, 23 states bar housing discrimination based on marital status, making it among the most common characteristic added by state law. If applicable, those laws generally ban discrimination against individuals or couples based on whether they are single, married, divorced, or separated.

Comply with laws protecting age. The laws in 21 states ban discrimination based on age, but the laws vary in focus. Many define “age” to apply to individuals 18 and older, while others define age to apply to older individuals—most commonly 40 and over.

Comply with laws protecting ancestry. Despite the federal ban on discrimination based on national origin, many states added ancestry to their lists of protected characteristics.

Comply with laws protecting creed. Similarly, federal law bans discrimination based on religion, but a number of states added protections based on creed. Some states refer specifically to religious creed, but most do not define the term, leading some to suggest that it may apply to individuals with any sincerely held belief.

Comply with laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. This fall, when new laws in Connecticut and Nevada take effect, 22 states will ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation; of those, 16 will also cover gender identity or gender expression. And many believe those numbers will rise, as advocates press forward with proposals to similar protections to state and local laws across the county.

Comply with laws protecting source of income. Currently, fair housing laws in 13 states and various localities prohibit discrimination based on source of income, a catchall phrase that generally refers to lawful sources of income, such as wages, alimony, and public assistance. In some states, those laws also ban discrimination against applicants with Section 8 vouchers, but others specifically exclude federal rent subsidies, including Section 8.

Comply with laws protecting military status. Currently, five states and a number of local governments prohibit housing discrimination based on military status, but fair housing experts expect those numbers to rise to meet the needs of military veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comply with laws protecting domestic violence victims. The law in a few states and local areas offer protection for victims of domestic violence or abuse, though the experts predict others to follow. Current state and local laws vary widely: Some refer to victims or survivors of domestic violence or abuse, while others expand protection to victims of other crimes, such as sexual assault or stalking. Some laws also cover individuals who have obtained a protection order against an abuser.

Comply with laws protecting other characteristics. A number of state and local laws ban discrimination based on a wide variety of other characteristics, including HIV status, immigration status, lawful occupation, political beliefs or affiliation, student status, genetic information, arrest or conviction records, personal appearance, or other arbitrary characteristics.

Source: Fair Housing Coach, “State Law Roundup: Checklist of State Fair Housing Protections,” August 2011