main menu

fair housing

Home Forward conducts its business according to federal, state, and city fair housing guidelines.

Information for Landlords Regarding Screening Guidelines

The purpose of fair housing law is to prevent discrimination on the basis of a person’s identity in a protected class. Nothing in the law forbids you from setting fair screening guidelines and applying them equally to all applicants.

Every person belongs to a protected class – each of us has a race, color, religion, sex, disability status, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, source of income, age, or marital status. So any time you deny an applicant, you deny someone who belongs to a protected class. The question is whether or not you treat applicants (or tenants) adversely because of a protected class or their identity within it. If the criteria you set are blind to class issues, and you apply them consistently, you may turn down applicants who do not qualify.

The key is to make sure your process neither directly nor indirectly discriminates on the basis a protected class. To comply, you should apply your process consistently and equally to all applicants.

Tillicum North

It is legal to set fair criteria and hold all applicants to the same standards. By the consistent use of such guidelines, you can retain full and appropriate control over finding tenants. As you think about the letter of the law, keep its spirit in mind as well. It is important to our society that we we remove the types of discrimination that weaken our communities.

In selling, renting, or leasing real property:

A.) The U.S. Fair Housing Amendments act of 1988 makes it illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap (disability), familial status, or national origin (coverage includes private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance, and State and local government housing.);

B.) The Code of the City of Portland, Oregon, adds further protections that make it illegal to discriminate against any person on the basis of sexual orientation, source of income, or age (§ 23.01.060);

C.) The State of Oregon adds further protection that makes it illegal to discriminate against any person on the basis of marital status (ORS §659.033).

These laws cover most housing. In some circumstances, the laws exempt owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

In the sale and rental of housing, no one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap (disability), familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, source of income, age, or marital status:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing;

  • Refuse to negotiate for housing;

  • Make housing unavailable;

  • Deny a dwelling;

  • Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling;

  • Provide different housing services or facilities;

  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental;

  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting);

  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

In addition, it is illegal for anyone to threaten, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right. However, housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs.
If you (or someone associated with you):

  • Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility & visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS-Related Complex, and intellectual disability) that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or

  • Have a record of such disability; or

  • Are regarded as having such a disability

Your landlord may not:

  • Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.); or

  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.

Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate based on familial status. That is, it may not discriminate against families in which one or more children under 18 live with:

A parent; or

A person who has legal custody of the child or children; or

The designee of the parent or legal custodian, with the parent or custodian’s written permission.

Familial status protection also applies to pregnant women and anyone securing legal custody of a child under 18.

Exemption: Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if:

The HUD Secretary has determined that it is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local government program; or

It is occupied solely by persons who are 62 or older; or

It houses at least one person who is 62 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates an intent to house persons who are 62 or older.

The U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) is ready to help with any problem of housing discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, there are several ways to file a complaint:

Complete Discrimination Complaint Form (HUD-903) in Spanish  or  English. Send it to:

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh St. SW, Room 5204
Washington, DC 20410-2000


Write a letter to HUD with:


    • Your name and address


    • The name and address of the person your complaint is about


    • The address of the house or apartment you were trying to rent or buy


    • The date when this incident occurred


    • A short description of what happened


  • Then mail it to the Fair Housing Hub closest to you.

Portland Metro Area Fair Housing Hub:

Fair Housing Hub, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Seattle Federal Office Building
909 First Avenue, Room 205
Seattle, Washington 98104-1000


Call the Fair Housing Hub for more information at:

Phone: (206) 220-5170

Toll-free: (800) 877-0246

TTY (206) 220-5185

You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.

HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity website has more information regarding illegal discrimination in housing.

HUD also has developed a free fair housing app for iPhones and iPads that explains your rights and gives you the ability to file a complaint from mobile devices.

Home Forward Logo

Choose Your Preferred Language

English English Русский Русский Afsoomaali Afsoomaali Español Español Tiếng Việt Tiếng Việt

For Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Somali, and Arabic, this site uses Google Translate. Please contact us if any information provided in your language is incorrect or unclear. Vital forms are all translated by a specialized service. Read our Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Plan here.