What You Should Know About Housing Discrimination
Are tenants protected by law against housing discrimination?
Yes. There are laws that protect your rights. It is illegal to discriminate against you because you are "different" or belong to a certain group of people. This means that you cannot be discriminated against because of your:
- ● race
- ● creed
- ● color
- ● national origin
- ● ancestry
- ● sexual orientation
- ● sex/gender
- ● marital status
- ● number of children in the family
- ● age
- ● mental disability
- ● physical disability
- ● learning disability
- ● source of income, or
- ● participation in Section 8 or a Rental Assistance Program
With only limited exceptions, this law applies to landlords, real estate agents, and others who participate in the rental or sale of housing.
What is housing discrimination?
Housing discrimination is when an individual or family is treated differently when trying to buy, rent, lease or sell a home, apartment or property because of certain characteristics or conditions. Housing discrimination may take many forms. For example...
- ■ A landlord refuses to rent you an apartment or charges you more in rent because of your race or religion.
- ■ An advertisement says "no children" - or the landlord says you have too many children.
- ■ A landlord refuses to accept Section 8 or a state security deposit guarantee.
Families with Children
If you are a tenant with children, or even if you are a tenant who is pregnant or expecting to get legal custody of a child, a landlord may not charge you more rent or a higher security deposit than he would charge other tenants. It is illegal for a landlord to advertise an apartment as "adults preferred," or to say, "We don't accept kids." The landlord also cannot steer families with kids to certain apartments or to one building in a complex.
Source of Income
A landlord may not reject you as a tenant because you receive State welfare (TFA) or child support, or are in the Section 8 program or RAP (Rental Assistance Program), or get another kind of public assistance or housing subsidy. The landlord may not subject you to more paperwork or stricter credit or income requirements than other applicants.
A landlord must allow you, at your own expense, to make changes (modifications) in an apartment to accommodate your disability. For example, a tenant in a wheelchair cannot be stopped from installing grab bars in a bathroom. In some cases, the landlord may be required to pay for modifications you need - call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 or (860) 344-0380. If you have a mental disability, the landlord may have to make reasonable accommodations in the rules to allow you to stay in the apartment successfully.
A landlord, a real estate broker or property manager may not discourage you from living in a particular neighborhood, or assign you to a particular building or floor because of the racial background of tenants already living there.
A landlord cannot discriminate because of gender. This means a landlord cannot say he does not rent to women (or men). A landlord or building superintendent may not withhold maintenance or other services unless you perform sexual favors. A landlord or building superintendent may not make offensive remarks or make it uncomfortable for you to live in your apartment on account of your sex/gender.
- NOTE: If you are discriminated against when buying a house, condominium or other property, call Connecticut Fair Housing Center for an informational pamphlet (860) 247-4400 or toll free at 1-888-247-4401.
How can I protect myself from discrimination?
Most property managers and owners know that housing discrimination is illegal, so it is often very subtle. Many times consumers never realize they have been denied their housing choice. Here are a few suggestions on how you can protect yourself when looking to rent an apartment or house.
- ✔Call before visiting the apartment.
- ✔ Bring a friend or witness along.
- ✔ Ask when the apartment is available for rent.
- ✔ Get as much information as possible and write it down (names of whom you spoke to, dates, addresses, size, rental terms, security deposit, etc.).
If you are denied housing, ASK WHY.
What are some signs of discrimination?
You can suspect discrimination when the story you are told in person is different from the information given on the phone. For example...
- ◆ The sign is still up although you are told the apartment or house has been rented. (Note: some places do display permanent "For Rent" signs.)
- ◆ The landlord takes your application and says you will be called after references are checked; but after a few days, you are not contacted.
- ◆ The landlord refuses to accept a deposit.
- ◆ The landlord tells you that you must give an outrageous rental fee or security deposit.
- ◆ You are told the apartment has just been rented.
Are some landlord requirements legal?
A landlord may have many requirements other than those relating to race, religion, sex, nationality, disabilities, etc. Most of the time, the following are legal IF the landlord applies the same requirements, standards, and conditions to everyone equally.
- ● A landlord may refuse to rent to people with pets (with the exception of service animals).
- ● A landlord may require:
- ❑ credit references,
- ❑ a security deposit of up to two months rent,
- ❑ references from previous landlords.
What can be done if I have been discriminated against?
If you think you are a victim of housing discrimination, it is important to act quickly. Call the Connecticut Fair Housing Center at (860) 247-4400 or toll free at 1-888-247-4401. You may also call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 or (860) 344-0380. It may be possible to get a court order to stop a landlord from renting the apartment you want to someone else. Or, you may be able to get compensation for your embarrassment at having been rejected or for the extra expenses in finding other housing. You can file a discrimination complaint (see below).
What information do I need to file a complaint?
As soon as you think you have been discriminated against, you should write down what happened. Be sure to include basic information such as:
- ● the date,
- ● the name of the person you spoke to,
- ● the address of the apartment,
- ● the type of building the apartment was in,
- ● the reasons you were given for not
- receiving the apartment, and
- ● the names and addresses of any witnesses.
Where do I file a discrimination complaint?
To file a housing discrimination complaint, contact one of the agencies listed here. Better yet, consult a lawyer first who may be able to go to court for you immediately.
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO)
CHRO Special Enforcement Unit
21 Grand Street, Hartford, CT 06106
(860) 541-3403 or toll free in CT 1-800-477-5737 ext. 3403
(860) 541-3459 TDD for the hearing impaired.
On the web: www.state.ct.us/chro
Connecticut Fair Housing Center
221 Main St., Suite 401
Hartford CT 06106
New Haven Office
171 Orange Street
New Haven, CT 06510
Toll free at 1-888-247-4401
On the web: www.ctfairhousing.org
Have questions? Need advice on what to do?
Call Statewide Legal Services
1-800-453-3320 or (860) 344-0380
Se habla español. All calls are confidential.
Legal Services Offices
Statewide Legal Services: (Entry point for the legal services network in
Connecticut). 860-344-0380 Central CT area or 1-800-453-3320.
Other Legal Services Programs:
Hartford, Hartford County:
Greater Hartford Legal Aid
999 Asylum Avenue, 3rd Floor
Hartford, CT 06105
FAX: (860) 541-5050
Greater New Haven Area:
New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc.
426 State Street
New Haven, CT 06510
TDD: (203) 946-4811
FAX: (203) 498-9271
Connecticut Legal Services:
Administrative Office: (860) 344-0447
211 State Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
587 Main Street
New Britain, CT 06051
153 Williams Street
New London, CT 06320
20 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06901
85 Central Avenue
Waterbury, CT 06722
872 Main St., P.O. Box 258
Willimantic, CT 06226
CLS Satellite Offices:
Danbury (203) 348-9216
Meriden (860) 225-8678
Middletown (860) 225-8678
Norwalk (203) 899-2451
Norwich (860) 447-0323
AIDS Legal Network for CT
999 Asylum Avenue, 3rd Floor
Hartford, CT 06105
(860) 541-5027 or 1-888-380-3646
This pamphlet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of CT in cooperation with CT Legal Services,
Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services. The information in this pamphlet is based on laws in CT as of December 2006. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. If you need further help and have not done so already, please call Statewide Legal Services (see above) or contact an attorney.