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Fair Housing Quiz

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1. Which of these things can a landlord lawfully do?
a.) Refuse to rent to someone who looks like they might be Arab.
b.) Charge a higher deposit to renters if they have small children.
c.) Refuse to rent to someone who has bad references from past landlords.

The answer is c. Federal and state fair housing laws protect people from discrimination in housing, if the discrimination is based on: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status (presence of children). In the first example, denying an apartment to someone because the person might be an Arab, the landlord's behavior would violate the law. It is not clear whether the landlord is thinking of Arabs in terms of "race," "national origin," or "religion." In any case, the landlord's behavior would violate fair housing laws. In the second example, families with children would have to pay more than families with all adults. That discriminates against them based on "familial status." In the last example, the landlord is making a decision based on whether the people would be good tenants based on their actual past behavior, not on whether they belong to a particular group. That is what landlords are supposed to do. However, a landlord could still violate the law if she insisted on better references for some applicants because of their race or other protected characteristic.


2. A landlord gives an eviction notice to a Latino family because they frequently paid their rent late. Other tenants who frequently paid rent late do not receive eviction notices. Which of the following is true?

a.) The landlord can evict the family without violating fair housing laws. It doesn't matter what other tenants do.
b.) If other tenants also paid their rent late, but those tenants do not receive notices, it raises a suspicion of discrimination based on race or national origin.

The answer is b. Discrimination can take the form of different standards for eviction.

3. Which of these things can a victim of housing discrimination do?

a.) File a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission within 300 days of the time the discrimination took place.
b.) File a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) within one year of the time the discrimination took place.
c.) File a lawsuit in court within two years of the time the discrimination took place.

The answer is all three. A victim of discrimination can do any or all of these things. Fair housing violations can also be used as defenses in eviction hearings.

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To contact the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), you may:

  • Click here to get to the ICRC website with details on the process in English and Spanish plus the forms to file a complaint. The full URL is:
    http://www.state.ia.us/government/crc/file_complaint/index.html
  • You can reach the ICRC toll-free at 1-800-457-4416, or in Des Moines calling area at (515) 281-4121. The Fax number is (515) 242-5840.
  • You can write to the ICRC at:
    Iowa Civil Rights Commission
    Grimes State Office Building
    400 E. 14th Street
    Des Moines, IA 50319-1004

To contact the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), you may:

  • Click here to go to their website (The full URL is: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/index.cfm ) which includes an online complaint form along with details on federal housing discrimination laws.
  • You can reach HUD toll-free at NATIONAL HUD DISCRIMINATION HOTLINE 1-800-927-9277 or TTY 1-800-927-9275.
  • Write to HUD at the address below:
    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Region VII Office of Fair Housing
    Gateway Tower II
    400 State Avenue
    Kansas City, Kansas 66101-2406.

If you have questions about fair housing, or need legal help, call Iowa Legal Aid at 1-800-532-1275.

Last Review and Update: Jul 10, 2009
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