What are the laws for roommates and shared housing?


Federal Fair Housing laws for roommates and shared housing have two components: advertising and decision-making.

    Advertising: Federal Fair Housing laws prohibit discriminatory advertising in all housing, regardless of how large or small the property. However, as discussed below, advertising which expresses a preference based upon sex is allowed in shared living situations where tenants will share a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area.
    Decision-making: Although the prohibition on discriminatory advertising applies to roommate and shared housing situations, federal Fair Housing laws do not cover the basis of decisions made by landowners who own less than four units, and live in one of the units. This means that in a situation in which a landlord owns less than four rental units, and lives in one of the units, it is legal for the owner to discriminate in the selection process based on the aforementioned categories, but it is illegal for that owner to advertise or otherwise make a statement expressing that discriminatory preference.

Are there any exceptions to the advertising laws?

Under federal Fair Housing law, the prohibition on discriminatory advertisements applies to all situations except the following:

    Shared Housing Exemption -- If you are advertising a shared housing unit, in which tenants will be sharing a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area, you may express a preference based upon sex only.
    Private Club and Religious Exemptions -- A religious community or private club whose membership is not restricted based upon race, color, or national origin may restrict tenancy only to its members in a property that it owns, and may advertise to that effect.
    Housing for Older Persons Exemption -- As discussed below, certain complexes for elderly persons are exempt from prohibitions on familial status discrimination, including the prohibitions on discriminatory advertising.

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