Fair Housing For Renters
Examples of things that might indicate unlawful rental discrimination is occurring could include (but are not limited to):
- Lying about or misrepresenting the availability of housing when housing is available
- Requiring different terms or conditions based solely on a household member's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability
- Advertising that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability
- Harassment or intimidation such as verbal threats, vandalism, or unwanted sexual advances
- A refusal to make reasonable accommodations for a person with disabilities
- Being steered to properties, buildings, or units on one side of a complex based solely on factors related to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, regardless of other available options
In addition to rights under the Fair Housing Act (www.justice.gov) which are further described on the Fair Housing 101 page, Texas Property Code (www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us) includes an overview of your basic rights as a tenant in a rental property.
Additional resources may be available to you through your local Legal Aid Office or through one of HUD's approved rental counseling programs (hud.gov). Many Legal Aid Offices also operate legal clinics or hotline services to better serve the public. A comprehensive listing of each office's location, services, and hours is available at TXLawHelp.org (www.txlawhelp.org).
For help in submitting forms for common types of landlord complaints (such as submitting a form to dispute your credit rating, requesting a deposit refund, or sample letters requesting repairs), please review the Austin Tenants Council's Forms page (www.housing-rights.org).
For information related to requesting reasonable accommodations or entering a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit Disability Rights Texas (www.disabilityrightstx.org).
What Can I Do If My Rights Are Violated?
If you believe your rights under the Fair Housing Act have been violated, visit our How To File a Complaint page. For more information on rules related to TDHCA monitored housing properties, see the topics below.
Common Fair Housing Concerns
Landlord-Tenant Law in TDHCA Properties
In addition to landlord responsibilities under the Texas Property Code,
Owners of TDHCA monitored rental properties must:
- Keep properties suitable for occupancy and in good repair consistent with Uniform Physical Condition Standards ("UPCS") published by HUD.
- Estimate utility costs at the property, annually review them, and make them available for inspection.
- Provide residents with a certain number of property amenities and/or services.
- Operate the property in accordance with its Land Use Restriction Agreement ("LURA"), whether or not owners or managers change.
- Offer written leases with specific terms (usually 6 months for the HTC program and 1 year for HOME and other federal programs).
- Provide tenants with written notice in the event of lease termination or non-renewal.
- Provide reasonable accommodations at the Owner's expense (except in some HTC properties awarded before 2001).
Owners of TDHCA monitored rental properties are prohibited from:
- Locking out or seizing property of tenants who have not paid rent.
- Charging rents in excess of program-specific rent limits that are published each year.
- Using certain lease provisions that restrict tenant rights to court and appeals processes or decisions, excuse owners from responsibility, or require tenants to pay court fees if a proceeding is won against the owner.
- Denying households for rental housing on the sole basis of the household's participation in the Section 8, HOME TBRA, or other federal rental assistance program.
- Evicting tenants for other than good cause under the lease, including retaliation for renters making discrimination complaints or assisting others in exercising his or her fair housing rights or rights to request reasonable accommodations.
- Requiring households participating in the Section 8, HOME TBRA, or other federal rental assistance program to demonstrate a monthly income of more than 2.5 times the household's share of the monthly rent (households with less than $50 of annual income are not required to demonstrate more than an annual income of $2,500).
Example: A voucher holder's tenant portion of the rent will be $216.30 per month.
$216.30 x 2.5 = $540.75 per month
The household cannot be asked to demonstrate more than $540.75 per month to be eligible for housing.
Families with Children
Other than Owners who are qualified to receive an exemption under HOPA, no Owner is allowed to discriminate based on familial status. These protections cover all families in which one or more children under 18 live with:
- A parent,
- A person who has legal custody of the child or children,
- The designee of the parent or legal custodian with the parent or custodian's written permission,
- Pregnant women, or
- Anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.
If a landlord is refusing to rent to you for these reasons, has included different terms or conditions in your lease or required different terms or conditions at the time of application (e.g., higher deposit or rent based solely on your household status), has separate house rules for children or families with children, or has advertised the housing unit as for "adults only", your rights may have been violated under the Fair Housing Act.
HUD has issued guidelines regarding occupancy standards that may violate fair housing laws because of adverse impact on families with children.
TDHCA has proposed minimum occupancy standards in its draft Tenant Selection Rule based on the guidance offered in HUD's Keating Memo (PDF) (hud.gov). Currently, TDHCA recommends that occupancy standards should allow at least two persons per bedroom in the absence of local code or ordinance stating otherwise.
It is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to discourage any person from inspecting or renting a dwelling because of certain protected characteristics, or to assign any person to a particular section of a community or to a particular floor of a building because of those characteristics. Examples of steering could include:
- Families with children are not allowed to live on the top floor of the development
- Being told that you should live in one building rather than another because you will be closer to other tenants of the same race or national origin
- Students and families with children are assigned to units on one side of a complex while single and older persons are assigned to units on another side
- Being discouraged from renting an available upstairs unit based on your status as a person with a disability
A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, or practices that may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling, such as assistance in filling out a rental application or allowing a unit transfer. This could also include reasonable structural modifications or changes like (but not limited to):
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom
- Widening doorways
- Removing under-the-counter cabinets
- Installing ramps
Requests can be made orally or in writing and are not required to be entered on specific forms, though management may provide a form for this purpose.
It is a violation of fair housing law to discriminate against applicants or residents because of their disability or the disability of anyone associated with them and to treat persons with disabilities unfavorably as a result of their disability. Housing providers may not refuse residency to persons with a disability or place conditions on their residency because a person with disabilities may require a reasonable accommodation.
Reasonable accommodation requests may include (but are not limited to):
- Requesting to keep a service or companion animal despite a "no pets" policy
- Requesting a unit transfer from an upper floor to a ground floor unit because of a mobility disability
- Requesting interpreters or auxiliary aids to effectively communicate with management because an applicant or tenant is hearing impaired
- Requesting that carpeting be removed from a unit or that maintenance staff not use certain chemicals inside or near a unit due to severe respiratory disabilities
- Requesting a reserved parking space close to a unit because of a mobility disability
HUD and DOJ have also provided guidance on service animals through the release of HUD Notice 13-060A (hud.gov) and DOJ's ADA Service Animal Fact Sheet (www.ada.gov). Service animals are not treated as pets under the law and are not required to be certified. Because they are not pets, residents with a disability who have a service animal are not required to pay a pet deposit or other associated pet fees and service animals are not subject to type, breed, weight, and size restrictions established by the property's tenant selection and eligibility criteria. A request for a service animal may be denied, however, if there is reliable, objective evidence that an assistance animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
TDHCA does not determine if an Owner has good cause or if a resident has violated their lease terms; tenants who have received a copy of an eviction or non-renewal notice may contact one of the Legal Aid offices listed on our How To File a Complaint page or access other legal help through TXLawHelp.org (www.txlawhelp.org).