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By John Kristensen of Kristensen, LLP posted in Discrimination on Thursday, January 2, 2020.
Recognizing Signs of Housing Discrimination

The housing market can be a competitive one when you’re looking for a home to rent, and for that reason it can be difficult to identify signs of housing discrimination if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s easy for a prospective landlord to decline your application because “someone just got approved for that unit”, or a number of other excuses, but the reality may be something much more offensive. All too often, landlords ask strategic questions to make determinations about their possible future tenants – which they have every right to do – but sometimes those questions are unfairly targeted against certain demographics who may not even realize they are being discriminated against. If you’re struggling with your search for a home, here are a few ways to recognize signs of housing discrimination.

Probing Questions
Although it may appear to be polite conversation, certain questions may actually be digging for information that could be wrongfully used to discriminate against you as a prospective tenant. There are a number of ways a landlord can discriminate – age, sex, and religion are common, but there are also more subtle reasons for prejudice, such as pregnant women on maternity leave, or even the gender of your children. Here are a few questions you may here that are actually probing for inappropriate information:

“So, how many more children do you plan on having?”
This question may be asked for a few reasons – none of which should impact your candidacy for an apartment. They may be wondering if your income could become compromised due to maternity leave, or have concerns about additional children in the property.

“Do you have boys or girls?”
Boys are often seen as more destructive, so this question may not be friendly at all and may be oriented toward weeding out families with young boys.

“Do you attend a church nearby?”
This may be asked either because they are biased toward people of their own religion, or biased against people of another religion, or a specific one. In all cases, this is not appropriate.

Suspicious Information
Another sign you are being discriminated against is if the information they give you sounds suspicious. For example, if you’re told there are no more available units that could easily be true; however, if you’re told that immediately after disclosing information that may have created prejudice, this may not be the truth at all. Here are a few things you may hear from someone trying to avoid renting to you:

“Sorry, we just rented out our last unit.”
If this is said immediately after disclosing sensitive information, or said too soon after posting the unit for it to sound feasible, this may be a lie to get rid of you.

“This may not be a good fit for your family.”
They could be saying this for several reasons, but it is your decision what is a good fit – not theirs.

“You might want to look into a different neighborhood.”
The implication of this is that you may not fit in the area their property is located, which is nearly almost always a sign of discrimination.

Don’t Allow Prejudice to Prevail
It may be difficult to recognize someone discriminating in the housing market, but a good rule of thumb is to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, there is probably a good reason for that. If you believe you or a loved one is unnecessarily struggling to find housing due to discrimination, please reach out to our office so we can bring you justice and peace of mind when it comes to providing a home for you and your family.