Fair Housing Resources
What Fair Housing Is
When looking to buy or rent a property, it is important to know that you are protected under fair housing laws. Fair housing laws are some of the strongest civil rights statutes on the books. Federal and State laws make it illegal to discriminate against people when renting or purchasing a unit based on any of the following "protected classes":
- Familial status (i.e. families with children under 18)
- Gender or Gender Identity
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Status as a person who is a recipient of federal, state, or local public assistance or who is a tenant receiving federal, state or local housing subsidies including rental assistance or rental supplements
- Veteran history/military status of the armed forces of the United States
This law also covers advertising, including making discriminatory statements. Ads that express a preference for, or exclusion of, a particular group of people are illegal. In addition, there is a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to a person with a disability when it is necessary to ensure an equal housing opportunity.
These laws apply to banks and mortgage companies as well. When you are looking for a mortgage, it is essential to compare loan offers from different banks and mortgage companies. Be wary of mortgage brokers who tell you there are no other options or who advertise "No credit? Bad credit? No problem!". Don’t let yourself feel pressured into a mortgage that is not right for you. Here are some ways to avoid problems:
- Educate yourself. Take a First Time Homebuyer course and understand the industry terminology.
- Be a smart consumer. Shop around and compare mortgage products.
- Get your finances in order. Know how much you can afford.
- Talk to someone you trust who isn’t going to make any money from the deal.
- Never agree to a loan if you don’t have the income to cover all of your monthly debts, including the mortgage!
- Get copies of all documents before closing, and read them carefully. If you do not understand them, seek help in reviewing them.
- Get a second opinion. Contact a community organization to obtain financial counseling before you sign any documents, or seek advice from an attorney.
Who should you contact if you feel that you have been discriminated against? The following agencies may be helpful in answering your fair housing questions and in providing additional information and guidance on fair housing.
- Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc: Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc is a non-profit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income people throughout the state. Dial 208-746-7541 or visit the Idaho Legal Aid Services website.
- Intermountain Fair Housing Council: The Intermountain Fair Housing Council (IFHC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure open and inclusive housing for all persons and provides education on fair housing laws. https://ifhcidaho.org/
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): HUD is the federal agency, which receives and investigates housing discrimination complaints that violate federal law. Complaints must be filed with HUD within one year of the most recent violation. For more information visit the file complaint website on HUD.
- City of Lewiston Ordinance No. 4614 and Lewiston City Code Chapter 38 Discrimination. For complaints alleging discrimination, contact the Idaho Commission on Human Rights (1-208-334-2873) and/or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1-800-669-4000).
- The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) provides additional fair housing resources, rights and obligations, as well as how to file a complaint (1-800-669-9777 or 1-800-877-8339).