Overview

If you believe you may have been discriminated against while trying to buy, finance or rent a home or apartment in Texas, you may submit a discrimination complaint through the TWC Civil Rights Division. You may submit a complaint within one year from the date of alleged harm but you should submit it as soon as possible. How to Submit a Housing Discrimination Complaint explains what to do to submit a complaint.

Exceptions:

  • If the property your fair housing complaint is about is located in the Texas cities of Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth or Garland, TWC Civil Rights will not be able to take the complaint. You need to contact the local Fair Housing office in those cities.
  • If you have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we will not be able to take the same complaint.

The Texas Fair Housing Act and the U.S. Fair Housing Act protect you from discriminatory housing practices in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, or familial status (presence of a child under age 18 living with parents or legal custodians, person securing custody of children under 18, or a pregnant woman).

The Texas Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the law exempts 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. Also, housing developments that qualify as housing for persons age 55 or older may be exempt from the provisions barring discrimination on the basis of familial status.

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Definition

Everyone who lives in the United States is protected from discrimination in housing; sale, rental, and financing of dwellings; lending; home appraisal; insurance and accessibility. Fair housing means you may freely choose a place to live without regard to your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.

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Fair Housing Requirements

It is illegal for anyone to:

  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, disability or familial status. This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to all housing, including single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the Texas Fair Housing Act
  • Harass, coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise their fair housing rights

Under the U.S. Fair Housing Act and Texas Fair Housing Act, no one may take any of the following actions in the sale and rental of housing or in mortgage lending based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status.

In the Sale & Rental of Housing

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Advertise housing to preferred groups of people only
  • Show apartments or homes in certain neighborhoods only
  • Say that housing is unavailable for inspection, sale or rental when in fact it is available
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Deny access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing
  • Refuse to make certain modifications or accommodations for persons with a mental or physical disability

In Mortgage Lending

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan
  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans
  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
  • Deny property insurance
  • Conduct property appraisals in a discriminatory manner
  • Refuse to purchase a loan
  • Set different terms of conditions for purchasing a loan

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Housing Opportunities for Families

Unless a building or community qualifies as housing for older persons, the owner or manager may not discriminate based on familial status.

Protection against discrimination based on familial status applies to:

  • Families in which one or more children under age 18 live with
  • Anyone securing legal custody of a child under age 18
  • Pregnant women

Housing for older persons is exempt from the prohibition against familial status discrimination if any of the following are true:

  • It is specifically designed for and occupied by elderly persons under a Federal, State or local government program
  • It is occupied solely by persons who are age 62 or older
  • It houses at least one person who is age 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, and adheres to a policy that demonstrates intent to house persons who are age 55 or older

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If You Have A Disability

If you have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such a disability or are regarded as having such a disability, you are legally protected against housing discrimination based on that disability. Protection against housing discrimination due to a disability also applies for a person associated with you.

A landlord may not:

  • Make an inquiry to determine if an applicant for a dwelling, or a person intending to reside in the dwelling, or any person associated with that person has a disability.
  • 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.)
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary so that the disabled person may have equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing, including public and common-use areas. For example:

If you are disabled, you may request our assistance in reading and completing our forms. Deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired customers may contact Relay Texas: 800-735-2989 (TTY) and 711 (Voice).

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Accessibility Requirements for Buildings

All properties built after March 13, 1991 must comply with design and construction requirements of the Federal and Texas Fair Housing Acts.

In buildings ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 with four or more units and an elevator:

  • Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities
  • Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs
  • All units must have:

In buildings ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991 with four or more units and no elevator, these standards apply to ground floor units.

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Complaint Process

Our first step is to determine whether we have jurisdiction to investigate. If we do have jurisdiction, then we work with the person who contacted us to complete the complaint. Once we receive all the required information, we will draft the complaint and send it to you for your review and signature.

Initial Response

After the signed complaint is returned to us, we will notify the person or persons who allegedly discriminated against you, explain the investigation and conciliation processes, permit that person to submit a response, and invite all parties to a formal settlement meeting (mediation).

Mediation (Optional)

If both parties agree to mediation, one of our professional mediators will arrange a mediation meeting.  If all parties can agree to a settlement with the assistance of the mediator, the matter will be resolved, all parties will sign an agreement, and the complaint will be resolved.

Investigation

If a complaint cannot be resolved through mediation, an investigation of the complaint is conducted. If our investigation finds no reasonable cause of discrimination, we will notify you in writing and inform you of your right to file a civil suit, at your expense, in Federal or State District Court within two years of the alleged violation. If our Division believes there is reasonable cause of discrimination, the Director will issue a Charge of Discrimination and request the Texas Attorney General’s office to file a lawsuit against the parties who discriminated against you.

Conciliation

Throughout the process, the investigator will try to reach an agreement with all parties through conciliation. A conciliation agreement takes into account the interests of all parties, as well as the public interest. If an agreement is signed by all parties, we will take no further action on your complaint and the investigation is concluded. If the agreement is breached, we may recommend that the Texas Attorney General file suit.

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