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What Landlords Should Know About Housing Discrimination

By Jennifer L. Alexander, Esq. August 7, 2013 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

In April 1968, the federal government enacted the Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate in the selling, financing, renting of houses, or any other housing-related transaction. This anti-discrimination law extends to the basis of race, country of origin, gender, religion, familial status, pregnancy, handicap or disability, and any other minority group. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) follows along the guidelines laid out in the Fair Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination in the sale or rental of any property. The LAD applies to owners, agents, employees and brokers, and makes it illegal to refuse housing services based on similar characteristics of a prospective client.

Included in the list of persons protected under the LAD are New Jersey residents with any mental or physical disability such as AIDS, HIV, or any related illness. It is illegal to make a negative distinction at any point during the process—whether it be showing the house to a prospective client or making an offer to an interested family. According to Griffin Alexander, P.C., the landlord and tenant lawyers in New Jersey, the Fair Housing Act and the LAD provide guidelines for renting agencies and realtors to help them avoid discriminating against a potential renter.

Fair housing legislation makes it clear that realtors and landlords cannot legally claim that an apartment or house is unavailable, whether for inspection, rent, or purchase, when it is in fact available. In addition to the sale and rental process, rental agencies and realty offices are prohibited from printing or distributing any advertising materials that discriminate against a particular group of people. This discrimination is qualified by the same characteristics as those previously listed in the Fair Housing Act and the LAD.

Both laws cover specific circumstances that a landlord or realtor may face when renting to a particular client, clarifying what constitutes as discriminatory or illegal behavior. For example, landlords cannot charge extra rent or fees for disabled tenants who require a guide dog. Rental agencies are also banned from denying an apartment to a single mother with custody of her children, based on her marital status or lack thereof; also prohibited is the refusal to rent a one-bedroom apartment to two members of the same sex, provided they are qualified to rent otherwise.

The LAD makes it illegal for landlords to refuse to rent based on lawful income as well, which includes sources such as earned income, child support, alimony, family gifts, and social security. Tenants who rely on funding from federal assistance programs, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and other state-funded programs, must be allowed equal access to rental properties. While there is no restriction on discriminating to renters who do not meet certain criteria in the LAD, refusing to rent to families with children is not allowed. The law does make an exception for communities that are designed to accommodate older tenants, where young children would disrupt the overall environment.

All state residents have the right to obtain housing without discrimination from the selling party, and our landlord and tenant lawyers in New Jersey report that these laws are in place to prevent such scenarios. The experienced landlord and tenant attorneys at New Jersey law firm Griffin Alexander represent prospective renters and homeowners who have been denied apartments and homes based on discrimination.

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