Under Ohio and federal law, it is illegal for landlords and other housing providers to discriminate against you in the sale or rental of housing. This includes if you are buying or renting a home, seeking a mortgage or housing assistance and in other housing-related activities.
Discrimination happens when you are treated unfairly or differently because you belong to a certain group of people, like your race or sex.
Also, if you have a disability, you can ask for reasonable changes, called a reasonable accommodation or modification, to help you get full use of your home. Learn more about reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications on this page.
Under federal and Ohio fair housing laws, you can’t be treated differently because of your:
These are called “protected classes.” Your city or county may have more protections, like local laws against discrimination based on age or source of income.
If you rent your home, this means that landlords and other housing providers can’t refuse to rent to you just because of your race, sex, disability or religion, or because you have kids or are in the military. Also, if you have a disability, you can ask for reasonable changes to help you get full use of your home.
If you are trying to buy or sell a home, this means that sellers, realtors, appraisers and lenders can't treat you differently as you are trying to purchase or sell your home.
Landlords, sellers and realtors and other housing providers have to follow fair housing laws. Housing providers could include property managers, insurance companies, local governments, homeowners associations or other groups or people.
Examples of discrimination
Housing discrimination can involve statements or actions against you as an individual, or it can involve statements or actions against groups of people, or protected classes.
When you’re looking for a home, it could be discrimination if a landlord or other housing provider:
- Refuses to rent to you
- Advertises housing to “preferred” groups of people, such as “singles only,” “no children” or “mature tenants only”
- Directs you to certain neighborhoods based on your race (This is called “steering.”)
- Doesn’t tell you about properties you’re qualified for
When you’re a tenant, it could be discrimination if a landlord or housing provider:
- Sets different rules for your use of the property
- Charges you different fees
- Provides different services or facilities to you
- Reuses to make a reasonable modification or accommodation for you if you have a disability
- Says your service dog can’t live with you because of a “no-pets” policy
- Gives you a hard time if you bring up your fair housing rights
If you have a child (or children) under the age of 18, or if you are pregnant or adopting a child, you are protected from discrimination based on your "familial status." This is a common form of housing discrimination. It could happen if a landlord or housing provider:
- Tells you “We don’t take kids here”
- Has overly strict rules for children
- Asks who’s part of your household
- Tells you there’s no play area or place for children in the building
- Directs you to other “family housing”
If you apply for loans or other financial help to buy a house, you are protected by fair housing laws, and it could be discrimination if a bank or lender:
- Refuses to give you a loan even though you are qualified
- Gives you a loan that’s more expensive because of the race of people who live in your new neighborhood
- Refuses to accept your income while you’re on parental leave
- Treats income based on a disability differently from income from a job
If you get your home appraised, the appraiser has to follow fair housing laws, and it could be discrimination if your home gets a lower appraisal value because of your race.
Even if someone isn’t trying to discriminate, these kinds of actions still can be illegal.
A reasonable accommodation is a change to a rule, policy or service that would allow a person with a disability to get full enjoyment and use of their home.
Examples of reasonable accommodations could be:
- Letting your assistance animal live with you, even though there’s a no-pet policy
- Giving you a handicapped parking space close to your apartment
- Allowing you to have a live-in aide
You can request a reasonable accommodation in writing or by talking to your landlord or housing provider. You can use this Form Assistant to create your letter requesting a reasonable accommodation. In your letter, you should:
- Request a reasonable accommodation.
- Describe the accommodation you are requesting.
- Explain how the change will help you get full use of your home.
Your landlord may ask for more information to decide whether or not to grant your request. Your landlord or housing provider can’t ask you for detailed medical information or a diagnosis, but they can ask you for limited information that:
- Verifies that you have a disability
- Further describes the accommodation
- Shows the connection between your disability and the need for the requested accommodation
Often, a letter or note from your doctor or other healthcare professional can provide the information that your landlord needs.
If you have a disability and you request a reasonable accommodation, your landlord or housing provider usually has to make that change, unless it would threaten the health and safety of others or cause damage to the property.
Keep in mind that your request has to be reasonable. If it would be very expensive or put a serious burden on your landlord, they might not have to make the change, but they should try to come up with a different way to help you.
A reasonable modification is a change to the building or property that would allow a person with a disability to get full enjoyment and use of their home. It could be a change to your individual rental unit or to a common area, like a clubhouse, laundry room or meeting room.
Examples of reasonable modifications could be:
- Putting in ramps so you can enter the building, if you use a wheelchair
- Making doorways wider so a wheelchair could fit through
- Installing grab bars in the shower or tub
You can ask for a reasonable modification verbally or in writing. Give your landlord a description of the change you are requesting and why it would help you. You can use this Form Assistant to create your letter requesting a reasonable modification.
Your landlord or housing provider can’t ask you for detailed medical information or a diagnosis, but they can ask you for information about your request and why you would need the modification.
As a tenant, you usually have to cover the cost of a reasonable modification, unless your housing provider receives federal funding.
Your landlord usually can’t force you to use special materials or a more expensive design, but they can ask for the work to be done well and with any permits that may be needed.
They also could require you to remove the modification when you move out, if it’s reasonable to remove it.
Where to get help
If you suspect housing discrimination, you can report it to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. You must file your charge within 1 year of when the suspected discrimination happened.
HUD and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission share information, and they both investigate claims of housing discrimination.
There are also local fair housing organizations that might be able to help you. Learn more about local nonprofit fair housing organizations and government agencies.
You also have the right to sue in state or federal court. If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit for housing discrimination, talk to a lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under "Legal Help and Lawyers." Learn more about finding a lawyer.