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Federal and State Fair Housing laws prohibit discrimination against people who are from countries, other than the U.S, when selling, renting, financing, or other housing related transactions. Implicit bias, or the unconscious attribution of particular qualities to members of a certain social groups, may arise from perceptions of ethnicity, language, customs, and dress and result in housing denials or discriminatory behavior. Overt national origin discrimination includes the following:
- Denying housing applications or access to housing, or evicting because of national origin;
- Steering or restricting people to one area of buildings, complexes or neighborhoods;
- Refusing to rent to people with non-US identification or requiring extra forms of identification such as green cards, passports or social security cards, while not requiring these forms of identification from others;
- Delaying or not making housing repairs for people of national origin, but doing the work for others;
- Applying housing rules to people of national origin differently than how they are applied to others;
- Advertising that people of national origin are not wanted or welcome;
- Refusing to speak to translators;
- Threatening to call Immigration services or threatening deportation in response to complaints about needed repairs or maintenance;
- Blocking access to amenities like swimming pools or laundry facilities;
- Charging more rent or higher security deposits;
- Requiring a co-signer because potential tenant is an immigrant or refugee, but not requiring co-signer for others;
- Evictions based solely on immigration or refugee status;
- Not investigating and remediating threats and harassment by other tenants and staff, such as racial or ethnic slurs, graffiti, and blocking access to home and amenities.
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. The Maine Human Rights Act has the same exemptions and in addition exempts owner-occupied duplexes. Both laws prohibit discriminatory advertising even when the housing is exempt.
Please contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you have questions about national origin discrimination, even if you think a housing provider may be exempt from Fair Housing laws.
Acknowledgement and Disclaimer
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.