J. Courtney Cunningham
What Is “Source of Income” Discrimination?
“Source of income discrimination” involves a landlord refusing to rent to a housing applicant because of the person’s lawful source of income they will use to pay the rent. You think it would be rare that a landlord would refuse to accept a legal income to pay the rent? It’s much more common than you think.
If you go to a website where people can post homes or apartments for rent, it’s not uncommon to see a advertisements that says “No Section 8”. This means that the landlord is saying that they will not accept a lawful source of income that is government issued to pay for rent. This is illegal, depending on the jurisdiction.
Does This Violate Federal Law?
Source of Income discrimination does not violate the Fair Housing Act. But, it could violate local and state laws regarding source of income discrimination. Check with your state, county or city government. Where source of income discrimination is illegal, it typically prohibits the refusal to rent to someone based on their source of income, discriminatory advertising, and the offering of different terms and conditions.
Who’s It Hurting?
Many times, source of income discrimination tends to hurt people of color and people with disabilities. It can be a pretext to exclude minorities and people with disabilities because people in those protected classes who might be using vouchers.
What Should You Do?
Save copies of the listing, rental applications, letters and emails and even business cards you receive during your housing search. Take detailed notes during your housing search including:
- Property name, address and phone number
- Name and title of the agents you spoke with
- Date and time of the call/visit
- Were there any apartments available within your move-in date? If not, what was the earliest available date?
- How much was rent? What utilities were included?
- Were there any income requirements to live at the property?
- Did they accept housing vouchers?
- Did you know the rent and terms of other tenants?
- Were you denied the opportunity to rent after you mentioned that you would be using a voucher?
- Were you quoted a higher rent price, or additional or higher fees than tenants and prospective tenants who do not have a voucher or not paying for their rent using SSI or veterans’ benefits?
If you believe that you have been subjected to discrimination because of your source of income, there are a few things you should do:
- Contact the landlord or real estate company—Contact the management company of office and ask to speak with a supervisor explaining what happened and your proposed resolution. If possible, follow up any verbal conversation in writing and ask for any decision in your request to be sent to you in writing.
- Be persistent—In your initial written contact, be sure to include a date by which you expect a response. If you don’t hear back from the person whom you originally contacted by the agreed upon date, you may need to take further action.
- File a complaint—If you live in a jurisdiction that affords source of income protects, you should consider filing a complaint with your local governmental civil rights or human rights agency.
- Call an experienced Fairn Housing Attorney—I have handled several source of income cases against landlords and real estate agencies and brokerages. If you are interested in pursuing legal action and you live in a jurisdiction with source of income protection, feel free to contact me, an experienced Fair Housing Attorney, for a free consultation regarding whether you have been subjected to discrimination. After we discuss the facts, we will determine whether you have a case. If you do, we will seek justice together.