A number of federal, state and local laws prohibit discrimination in housing. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is against the law to treat someone differently based on one’s identification, or perceived identification, as a member of a protected class, which include:
Color, Familial Status, National Origin, Physical or Mental Disability, Race, Religion, Sex
Gender Identity, Marital Status, Traits Associated with Race, Sexual Orientation, Source of Income
Local (can include):
Age, Ancestry, Citizenship, Creed, Ethnic Origin, Family Responsibility, Genetics Occupation, Personal Appearance, Political Opinion, Presence of Children, Veteran/Military
Based upon any of these protected classes, a housing provider cannot:
- Refuse to rent or sell you housing
- Indicate that housing is unavailable when in fact it is available
- Show you apartments or homes in certain neighborhoods only
- Advertise housing to preferred groups of people only
- Refuse to provide you with information regarding mortgage loans, deny you a mortgage loan, or impose different terms and conditions on a mortgage loan
- Deny you property insurance
- Conduct property appraisals in a discriminatory manner
- Refuse to make certain modifications or accommodations for persons with mental or physical disability, including persons recovering from alcohol and substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS-related illnesses
- Fail to design and construct housing in an accessible manner
- Harass, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with anyone exercising or assisting someone else with their fair housing rights
Report Fair Housing Violations
If you believe you have been discriminated against during a home search or real estate transaction, contact the intake Unit of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
Complaints involving housing discrimination must be filed within one year of the alleged unlawful incident.
To file an online compliant: Pages - File A Complaint (maryland.gov)
For individuals with limited English proficiency or who require additional assistance: Please contact the MCCR at 410-767-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Para individuos con conocimiento limitado en inglés o que requieren asistencia adicional: comuníquese con el MCCR al 410-767-8600 o email@example.com.
Additional Sources of Fair Housing Information:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
The Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland:
As a buyer, are you thinking of writing a personal note to the sellers in order for your offer to stand out?
As a seller, did you receive a letter from interested buyers that tugged at your heartstrings enough to make you want to choose that offer over others you had received.
Be careful! Those types of communications could land you in trouble. A buyer’s “love letter” to the seller can unintentionally create Fair Housing Act discrimination and put buyers, sellers, and their agents at risk.
Often, these letters reveal personal characteristics of the buyers which are considered “protected classes” under Fair Housing laws. For instance, they could mention a buyer’s children wanting to play in the backyard, or include a picture which reveal their race, martial status or other characteristics.
If a seller chooses or rejects an offer based upon one of those protected characteristics, a Fair Housing violation has likely occurred.
Your agent will advise you about what communications should accompany the offer and your obligations to uphold Fair Housing laws. They may also have a company policy or clause in your buyer or seller agreement which states that “love letters” will not be transmitted or considered. Talk to your REALTOR® about how to craft a winning offer on a home or evaluating the offers you receive as a seller – without engaging in housing discrimination.