Fair Housing Law

Fair Housing Law

Information on discrimination in housing.


What is Discrimination in Housing?

What Is it Illegal for a Landlord to Consider?
Under Iowa law and federal law, a landlord or apartment manager in the process of choosing a tenant, advertising for tenants, or choosing the terms of a rental agreement with a tenant, may not discriminate against a person on the basis of RACE, COLOR, CREED, SEX, RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, DISABILITY or HANDICAP (physical or mental) or FAMILY STATUS (if the person is responsible for children or is pregnant). Similarly, a tenant can't be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, religion, national origin, disability, family status or age of any of that tenant's guests or visitors. Persons with disabilities may have other rights. Under Iowa law, discrimination against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identity is also prohibited.

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


What Should a Person Who Has Been Discriminated Against in Housing Do?

In general, a victim of housing discrimination can do any or all of the following things. Keep in mind that the Iowa law and federal law are very similar, but it is possible that some actions might violate one but not the other. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission can give more information about what each law covers.

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


Denying Housing to Survivors of Domestic Violence May Violate Fair Housing Laws

It is hard enough for anyone to find decent, affordable housing. Finding housing may be even harder for women who are survivors of domestic violence. Why would this be?

In some cases, the landlord may have a policy of denying an apartment to someone who is a survivor of domestic violence. The landlord may be afraid that the abuser will go on causing problems. In that case, the landlord intends to keep out survivors of domestic violence. 

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


Tenants Protected from Discrimination Based on Sex

Some tenants who have a disagreement with their landlord, or fall behind in the rent are threatened with eviction. Sometimes a landlord may ask for sex from a tenant in payment for rent or to stop an eviction. This is illegal. There are a few different laws that protect tenants.

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


Fair Housing Law Protect Immigrants

Imagine you and your family are looking for an apartment. You see an ad that looks promising. The location is good, and the rent is affordable. Your spouse stops on the way home from work and asks to see it. The landlord says it has already been rented. Something about the landlord's manner makes your spouse wonder if it really has been rented. What can you do? You may have a claim under federal and state fair housing laws if housing has been denied because of:

  • Race or color
  • Creed or religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Familial status (presence of children)
  • Under Iowa law, you may have a claim if housing is denied because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


Why Does a Landlord Have to Accommodate a Tenant's Disability?

Anyone may have a hard time finding a rental unit he or she can afford. There is not enough low- and moderate-income housing to meet the need. Persons with disabilities may have even fewer housing choices. Some rental units could become suitable with a few changes. The landlord's rules or policies might need to change before the tenant could live there. What are a tenant's rights in such cases?

Both federal law and Iowa law deal with "fair housing." Landlords cannot discriminate against a tenant based on race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


The Fair Housing Act & Iowa Civil Rights Act Protect Rights of Persons with a Mental Disability

It is often hard for a person with a fixed income to find housing he or she can afford. Federally subsidized housing units often have waiting lists. Private low-cost housing may be in bad shape. Once a person has found decent, affordable housing, the threat of losing it can be very frightening. Finding and keeping affordable housing may be even harder for a person with a mental disability. Other tenants or the landlord may treat a person with a mental illness or disability differently from others.

Discrimination against a person with a mental disability is illegal. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Iowa Civil Rights Act protect people with disabilities from housing discrimination. These laws protect persons with either physical or mental disabilities.

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By: Iowa Legal Aid


Finding Housing with a Criminal Record

A past criminal case can make it hard to find housing. Many landlords will not rent to someone with a criminal record.

  • Public housing agencies have policies that screen out people with certain criminal records too.
  • Federal law has rules for companies that screen tenants.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has found that sometimes the screening policies to deny a person housing due to a criminal record may violate the Fair Housing Act (FHA)

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By: Iowa Legal Aid