Discrimination in Housing (FAQ)


By: Montana Fair Housing

Explains what housing discrimination is, who's protected and what you can do if you feel you have been discriminated against.
Resource Information

Who is protected from discrimination?

The Fair Housing Act protects you from discrimination based on your protected class status. It is illegal for someone to discriminate in any aspect of the housing industry because of:

  • race,
  • color,
  • national origin,
  • religion,
  • sex,
  • familial status (having children under 18 in the household or pregnancy), or
  • disability.

The Montana Human Rights Act also protects persons from discrimination in housing based on:

  • marital status,
  • age, and
  • creed.

Everyone is protected under the fair housing laws.

Housing activities that are covered under the Fair Housing Act and the Montana Human Rights Act include:

  • rental,
  • sales,
  • mortgage/lending,
  • insurance,
  • advertising,
  • appraisals, and
  • anything else that pertains to housing.

What is discrimination?

If someone is being treated differently in a housing transaction, because they are members of one or more protected classes, there is a good chance this is discriminatory. The types of activities that are considered discriminatory include:

  • denial of service or housing,
  • refusal to rent,
  • refusal to sell or negotiate,
  • having different terms and conditions imposed because of protected class status,
  • advertising with a preference for or against certain protected classes,
  • failure to provide reasonable accommodations/modifications for someone with a disability, or
  • being offered or shown fewer housing options than others are provided.

This is not a complete list. There are many ways that people are discriminated against, some blatant, many subtle. It is important to know that people can be treated "unfairly" but not necessarily experience discrimination. If a landlord doesn't fix your leaky roof, your broken stove, or is mean to you, this is not discrimination unless it is being done because of your protected class status. If the landlord treats everyone unfairly, it is not illegal discrimination. These issues are most often covered under the Landlord Tenant Act.

What if my apartment is not accessible to persons with physical disabilities?

Any apartment building with four or more units, built for first occupancy since March 13, 1991 should meet the 'basic' accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. All ground floor units, or units served by an elevator, must meet the requirements. These include:

  • an accessible entrance on an accessible route,
  • accessible public and common use areas,
  • usable doors (32" clearance and lever handles),
  • accessible routes into and through the dwelling unit,
  • accessible light switches, electrical outlets and environmental controls,
  • reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars, and
  • usable kitchens and bathrooms.

It should be noted that the law was meant to allow persons with disabilities "to get in the front door," without placing undue financial burdens on developers and owners. These units are not totally accessible, but are meant to allow entry and basic access throughout the apartment. If you feel your apartment does not meet the above requirements, contact Montana Fair Housing.

What should I do if I feel I have been discriminated against?

If you feel you have been discriminated against, you have the right to file an administrative complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau and/or the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Denver, CO. You may also decide to file a lawsuit in state or federal court, depending on the protected class (federal or state). If you contact Montana Fair Housing, they can assist in determining if discrimination actually did occur and can assist you in filing an administrative complaint or a lawsuit. If you want to have a discriminatory practice ended without filing a complaint, Montana Fair Housing can also assist in educating the housing provider and/or attempt to mediate a mutually acceptable solution.

Who should I contact for assistance and/or more information?

Montana Fair Housing

501 East Front Street, Suite 504
Butte, Montana 59701
(406) 782-2573 / 1-800-929-2611
Montana Relay: 711 - Fax: (406) 782-2781
E-mail: inquiry@montanafairhousing.org 

Montana Human Rights Bureau

Montana Department of Labor and Industry
P.O. Box 1728
Helena, MT 59624-1728
(406) 444-2884

Montana Legal Services Association

616 Helena Avenue, Suite 100
Helena, MT 59601
(800) 666-6899

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
1670 Broadway, 22nd Floor
Denver, CO 80202-3607
(800) 877-7353
(303) 672-5430

Lawyer Referral and Information Service

(406) 449-6577

State Law Library of Montana

(406) 444-3660


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