What You Need to Know About Delaware’s Fair Housing Act

Under Delaware’s Fair Housing Act, you can’t be denied housing based on race, color, sex, national origin, disability, religion, or marital status.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Under the
Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for landlords, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, or banks to deny anyone housing or financing based on race, color, national origin, creed, sex, marital status, disability, familial status, source of income, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. 
The federal Fair Housing Act was created to advise landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage brokers about practices that may be discriminatory. Its purpose is to ensure that all Americans have an equal opportunity to find housing without being singled out for arbitrary characteristics. 
Still, many people who face discrimination in real estate matters don’t know how or where to file a complaint. So
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Does Delaware have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! Delaware has its own Fair Housing Laws, which aim to outlaw discrimination in housing and other housing-related services. 
Delaware's Fair Housing Laws protect tenants beyond the primary seven factors (race, color, national origin, sex, handicaps, and religious beliefs) recognized under federal law. Additional protections include: 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Creed
  • Age
  • Source of income
According to Delaware's Fair Housing Laws, it is illegal to: 
  • Refuse to rent, sell, or exchange real estate with a person based on discriminatory factors
  • Falsely claim that housing listed on the open market is taken or unavailable to view
  • Advertise real estate in a way that suggests a preference for specific people or families
  • Offer different obligations, rights, and privileges to specific groups of people
  • Pressure a property owner to rent or sell based on the notion that people of a certain race or color will move into the neighborhood
  • Restrict or deny membership in a professional real estate organization, or deny access to related real estate materials
  • Retaliate against someone who has exercised their rights under the Fair Housing Act
Delaware Fair Housing regulations do have several exemptions that allow property owners and organizations to have restrictive policies when it comes to real estate transactions: 
  • Churches and religious organizations can sell, rent, or offer real estate for sale or rent in a manner that shows a preference for adherents of the same faith or organizations representing them. They can also operate gender-specific lodging facilities. 
  • Universities and boarding schools can operate gender-specific dormitories, but they may not restrict or deny admission based on national origin, race, or color.
  • Property owners who live on the premises of their property and rent out four or fewer units are exempt from the Delaware Fair Housing Act.

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

Disabled persons are entitled by federal Fair Housing laws to request reasonable accommodations or modifications, and housing providers are required to comply. 
Although the terms “modification” and “accommodation” are often used interchangeably, they are two very different things. 
A “reasonable accommodation” is a change to a housing provider’s rules, regulations, practices, or services when the change is needed to give people with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. Common accommodations include:
  • Waiving a no-pet policy for a tenant that has a service animal
  • Allowing a home caregiver to stay in a unit that otherwise has a no-guest policy
  • Permitting a tenant with a disability to move from an upper-level to a lower-level apartment without a fee
A reasonable modification request is a structural change made to a dwelling or common area necessary to allow a person with a disability to fully use the facility. Common reasonable modification requests include:
  • Installation of a wheelchair ramp into a building
  • Installation of visual alert fire alarms or doorbells 
  • Widening a doorway so a wheelchair can fit through
  • Adding grab bars or a roll-in shower to a bathroom
  • Installing accessible door handles
  • Add a lift to the community pool
It is best to make a request for reasonable accommodations or modifications in writing so your communications are properly documented. In addition, if your disability isn’t readily apparent, documentation from a health care provider may be necessary. 

How to file a fair housing complaint in Delaware

If you believe you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination in Delaware, you must file a complaint within one year of the discriminatory event or the discovery of the discrimination.
Complaints must be made in writing or filed on the
Delaware Division of Human Relations
website and contain: 
  • The type of property
  • The offender's name and address (if known)
  • Names of any witnesses
  • A brief description of what happened and why you feel you were discriminated against (age, color, creed, etc.)
Once you file a complaint, the Division will serve the respondent a notice identifying the alleged discriminatory housing practice within 10 days, after which they have 20 days to respond. 
The Division will then investigate the incident and decide within 100 days. If they believe the respondent has committed an act of discrimination, they may refer the matter to the Attorney General with a recommendation to file a civil suit. 
Alternately, you can also file a report directly with HUD’s Discrimination Hotline at (800)-669-9777 or download a
discrimination complaint form
on their website. 

State agency vs. local offices

In most cases, reporting to the Division of Human Relations or HUD is the best way to deal with housing discrimination in Delaware. 
However, if you live in Sussex County, they have their own fair housing agency. You can report discriminatory practices directly to their
Affordable and Fair Housing Resource Center

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To report a landlord in Delaware, you must submit a complaint in writing (either via mail or on the website) to the Delaware Division of Human Relations. Alternatively, you can report the incident directly to HUD.
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