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Fair Housing and Lending

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Having both the opportunity and the financial means to live where one chooses, without discrimination, are key civil rights. They unlock opportunities in many other aspects of life important to healthy families and communities, such as education, employment, and voting. Many decades of legalized discrimination prior to the Civil Rights Movement carried momentum that continues to be seen and felt. Present-day discriminatory practices compound the problem. All of us – government, landlords, home sellers, real estate agents, and lenders – must do our part to foster fair housing and fair lending.

The Civil Rights Enforcement Section generally exercises jurisdiction over cases involving systemic patterns or practices of discrimination or that otherwise raise civil rights issues of statewide significance. Complaints of non-systemic or single incidents of discrimination usually are referred to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission or another appropriate agency.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits virtually all persons involved in the rental, sale, or financing of housing from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, pregnancy/childbirth, national origin, familial status, and disability. 43 P.S. §§ 955(h)(1)-(11). Various federal laws prohibit discrimination in housing and associated lending as well – primarily the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq,); the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (15 U.S.C. 1691 et seq.); and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1982.

Generally, the following practices are illegal:

  • Refusing to sell, lease, finance or otherwise denying or withholding any housing based on a protected basis/protected class.
  • Refusing to lend money or otherwise withholding financing for housing based on a protected basis/protected class.
  • Discriminating in the terms or conditions of selling or leasing housing based on a protected basis/protected class.
  • Making available housing or commercial property which is not accessible for persons with disabilities; refusing to permit a person with a disability to make reasonable modifications to the premises, or in rules and policies, to allow full enjoyment; landlord may require renter to restore the interior afterwards.

The following are examples of systemic/pattern-or-practice discrimination in housing or related lending which the Civil Rights Enforcement Section would be empowered to investigate.  Complainants alleging non-systemic or single incidents of discrimination are referred to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission or another appropriate agency.

  • A real estate agent routinely requires African American potential buyers to be pre-qualified for a mortgage prior to providing listings or conducting home tours, but does not require the same of others.
  • A mortgage lender has a pattern of avoiding seeking or making home loans in certain neighborhoods because they are heavily African American or Hispanic.
  • A landlord repeatedly refuses to allow persons with a disability to make a reasonable modification to an apartment at his own expense.
  • A real estate agent has a practice of steering white potential buyers toward neighborhoods with lower percentages of minorities, and steering minority potential buyers toward neighborhoods with higher percentages of minorities.
  • A landlord’s advertisements imply that renters with children are not welcome.

Nothing on this page should be construed as legal advice.