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August 25, 2017

Tenant Rights to Discrimination-Free Rentals

Federal legislation prohibits housing discrimination of six protected classes, and Massachusetts law extends the list even further. Although tenants can often recognize the signs when landlords subject them to housing discrimination, they may not always recognize less-obvious signals. When landlord actions seem illogical or unfair, a discussion with a Boston tenant lawyer can help clarify tenant rights under the law.

Recognizing Protected Classes

According to the federal Fair Housing Act, certain groups of people anywhere in the U.S. can seek protection against housing discrimination, which can include anything from refusing to sell or rent, steering renters to other properties or even failing to provide necessary accommodations for certain conditions. Federal protected classes include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Race or color, which continues to be a major discrimination issue
  • Religious discrimination, which can extend to the use of private homes as places of worship
  • Sex, including sexual harassment, which is still an issue, particularly when it pertains to women of lesser financial means
  • National origin, which remains a common issue for Hispanic families, but also applies to immigrant families from many nations
  • Familial status, which often pertains to the presence of children within families seeking housing
  • Disability, which applies to disabled individuals as long as they present no risk to other residents and includes requirements to provide reasonable accommodations

Keep in mind that the MA Attorney General provides a list of protected classes that meet or exceed the federal list, so MA renters may have even more rights than they might expect.

Rental applicants who believe they have been refused for reasons that might be considered discriminatory under the law should talk with an attorney for an assessment of their rights and appropriate legal assistance.

Discrimination Issues are Not Always Obvious

The good news is that discrimination may not be the issue that it once was. However, landlords can have any number of explanations for refusal to rent that actually mask discriminatory reasons. When it comes to tenant rights, families should question any denials or other issues that seem to be less than reasonable. When in doubt, call us at (617) 848-4572 to help protect fair housing rights.

Posted in Landlord-Tenant Information



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