The U.S. Fair Housing Act of 1969 protects all citizens. It states that no one can be denied housing because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, age or disability. The month of April serves as a time to celebrate the progress made in opening the doors of housing opportunity to every citizen. It is also a time to acknowledge the fair housing challenges that still remain, and commit to finding solutions to those challenges.
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires an analysis of our area be conducted to identify impediments to fair housing, and subsequently, recommend solutions to the impediments. The most recent analysis of impediments to fair housing was completed and submitted to HUD on May 15, 2011. The document is used as a guiding document to establish funding priorities via Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars. Further, it serves as a plan to augment current fair housing initiatives internally, and is slated to be an integral part of the City of North Charleston’s Community Development Office’s outreach and educational plans in the future.
Fair Housing 101
What is Prohibited?
In the Sale and Rental of Housing. No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability.
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental
- For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting)
- Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as multiple listing service) related to the sale of rental housing
In Mortgage Lending: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability:
- Refuse to make a mortgage loan
- Refuse to provide information regarding loans
- Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points or fees
- Discriminate in appraising property
- Refuse to purchase a loan
- Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan
It is illegal for anyone to:
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
- Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the U.S. Fair Housing Act.
Additional Protection if You or Someone Associated with You:
- Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental disability) that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Have a record of such a disability
- Are regarded as having such a disability
Your landlord may not:
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move).
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
Example: A building with a no pets policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment.
However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.
Requirements for New Buildings
In buildings that are ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units:
- Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
- Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
- All units must have:
- An accessible route into and through the unit
- Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls
- Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars
- Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs
If a building with four or more units has no elevator and will be ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units.
These requirements for new buildings do not replace any more stringent standards in state or local law.
Housing Opportunities for Families
Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:
- A parent
- A person who has legal custody of the child or children
- The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian’s written permission
Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.
Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:
- The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a federal, state or local government program, or
- It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 years or older, or
- It houses at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates intent to house persons who are 55 or older.
A transition period permits residents on or before September 13, 1988, to continue living in the housing, regardless of their age, without interfering with the exemption.
If you think your rights have been violated, contact the SC Human Affairs Commission:
P. O. Box 4490
2611 Forest Drive, Suite 200
Columbia, SC 29201
8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday
(803) 737-7800 or Toll Free 1-800-521-0725 or TDD (803) 253-4125