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Immigration and fair housing

By Peg Ritenour

Immigration issues continue to be in the forefront of today’s political climate. Regardless of your views on this issue, it is important for REALTORS to make sure that they are not discriminating against persons based on their national origin.

HUD has an excellent Q&A on immigration issues and fair housing on its website. According to HUD it is a violation to treat someone differently because of their ancestry, ethnicity, birthplace, culture or language. This means people cannot be denied housing opportunities because they or their family are from another country, because they have a name or accent associated with a national origin group, because they participate in certain customs associated with a national origin group, or because they are married to or associate with people of a certain national origin.

One of the questions that HUD addresses is whether landlords ask potential renters for immigration documents. Here what HUD has to say:

  • Landlords are allowed to request documentation and conduct inquiries to determine whether a potential renter meets the criteria for rental, so long as this same procedure is applied to all potential renters. Landlords can ask for identity documents and institute credit checks to ensure ability to pay rent. However, a person’s ability to pay rent or fitness as a tenant is not necessarily connected to his or her immigration status.
  • Procedures to screen potential and existing tenants for citizenship and immigration status may violate the Fair Housing Act’s prohibitions on national origin housing discrimination. HUD will investigate complaints alleging that a landlord inquired into a person’s immigration status or citizenship to see whether national origin discrimination may have occurred.
  • Landlords should remember that their policies must be consistent. If they ask for information from one person or group, they must ask for the same information from all applicants and tenants. Potential renters and home buyers cannot be treated differently because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.

Tags: legal