Securing comfortable, safe, and accommodating housing is a basic human right. The Federal Fair Housing Act and the Missouri Human Rights Act both mandate that everyone has equal opportunities when it comes to housing and not face discrimination based on protected categories such as:
- National origin
- Mental or physical disability
- Familial status (includes pregnant women)
Both state and federal law apply to all real estate intended for housing use, such as apartment buildings, condominium developments, and private homes. There are a few exceptions – a community or apartment building designated as housing for seniors may limit tenant eligibility to adults without children – but in general, discrimination of any type is illegal.
To avoid lawsuits, unethical landlords usually try to be subtle when discriminating. If you are subjected to any of the following obstacles when searching for a place to live or trying to enjoy your tenancy, you may have a case.
- The landlord tells you that they “don’t allow children for safety reasons.”
Unless an accommodation qualifies as housing for seniors, the landlord or property manager cannot deny you housing based on your familial status. If they try telling you that the building is not safe for children (e.g., lead paint on staircase railing), the solution is to correct the hazard, not turn families away. The familial status protection also extends to pregnant women.
- A rental offer is withdrawn after the landlord realizes your religion.
Let’s say you are Muslim and wear traditional attire. When you see an apartment listed and call to inquire, the property manager confirms that it is available and invites you to come see it. When you do, the landlord takes one look at you and says that the unit has been rented. However, the listing continues to run in the newspaper and online, suggesting that you were illegally denied housing because of your religion.
- You are treated differently than tenants of other races.
Burst water pipes resulted in severe flooding on the floor above you, leaving you and your neighbor with damaged walls. The neighbor, who is white, has his apartment repaired within a couple of days without him even making a maintenance request. You ask the landlord when your unit will be repaired, but he doesn’t respond, even when you submit a formal maintenance request. When you confront him to complain, he declares that you are too demanding. The next day you receive an eviction notice stating that you threatened the landlord and must leave. There is no mention of the fact that it is illegal for a landlord to treat you differently because of your race.
- The landlord makes excuses for not accommodating a disability.
You have been living in the same apartment for years, but due to a degenerative disability, you will soon need to use a wheelchair. When you tell your landlord that you will no longer be able to use the building’s front steps and need a ramp to access your unit, they reply that they don’t have the budget to install a ramp and that you should move instead. What they don’t tell you is that they have a legal duty to ensure that tenants with disabilities enjoy equal access to housing.
At Bell Law, we have extensive experience protecting the rights of Missouri tenants who have been discriminated against when seeking or trying to benefit from housing. Discrimination claims can be complicated, so we will carefully review your situation and provide the appropriate advice. To schedule a consultation with attorney Bryce Bell, please contact us or call (816) 886-8206.