Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs - Building Homes and Strengthening Communities

Buyers and Renters

Protected Classes and Illegal Discrimination

Both the Federal Fair Housing Act (HUD.gov) and the Texas Fair Housing Act (www.twc.state.tx.us) make it illegal to deny a person housing solely on the basis of:

  • Color
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Disability
  • Familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians; pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18)

These seven groups are often referred to as the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. Here are some examples of illegal discrimination, if such action occurred solely based on the person’s protected class:

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan or rent a home
  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans
  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
  • Discriminate in appraising property
  • Falsely deny that housing is available
  • Direct an applicant to a specific neighborhood (steering)
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations or allow reasonable modifications for persons with disabilities

Categories Not Protected

The Fair Housing Act does not prohibit the denial of housing on the basis of credit worthiness, previous rental history, or criminal record. Furthermore, the Fair Housing Act does not protect persons who present a direct threat to the persons or property of others. Developments that put policies such as these into place must make sure they are consistently applied to everyone attempting to lease or purchase the same or a comparable home.

Modifications to a Home

The idea of fair housing is to equalize housing opportunity. To increase a disabled person’s ability to access a housing unit, the law requires providers to take steps to increase access. For example, the Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when doing so would allow a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwelling. The Fair Housing Act also allows persons with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to their home. A reasonable modification is a structural modification that allows persons with disabilities the full enjoyment of their home and related facilities. Reasonable modifications are usually made at the resident's expense. Housing providers that receive federal financial assistance, such as HOME funding, must provide and pay for reasonable accommodations including structural modifications to units or public and common areas if they do not amount to an undue financial and administrative burden. Although Housing Tax Credits are not considered federal financial assistance, HTC properties built after 2001 are also required to comply with this requirement.

Important Organizations

There are several fair housing organizations throughout Texas that advocate for fair housing rights, assist with filing a fair housing complaint, and help complainants find legal advice, including: