What You Need to Know About the District of Columbia’s Fair Housing Act

Under the District of Columbia’s Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal to be denied housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
Written by Emily Maracle
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
According to the District of Columbia’s Fair Housing Act, it's illegal for a landlord, real estate agent, broker, or financial institution to deny someone housing, a mortgage, or other financial assistance for a home, based on their race, sex, color, religion, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
In 1968, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed, which expanded on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With this expansion, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) was enacted, making it illegal to discriminate during a sale, rental, or financing of housing, further protecting home buyers and renters in every state, the
District of Columbia
, Puerto Rico, or any other U.S. territory. 
After an executive order was signed in 2021, the Fair Housing Act also protects those facing housing discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, expanding on the initial definition of “sex” in the original FHA.
While the Fair Housing Act protects homebuyers and renters in the United States and its territories, the process for filing a complaint can vary depending on where you live. To help navigate the District of Columbia’s process and your right to fair housing,
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Does the District of Columbia have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! The Fair Housing Law in the District of Columbia is covered under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977. Under this Act, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on:
  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression)
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Personal appearance
  • Familial status
  • Family responsibilities
  • Matriculation
  • Political affiliation 
  • Disability 
  • Source of income
  • Victim of an intra-family offense
  • Place of residence or business 
Additionally, it is illegal to do any of the following in the District of Columbia based on the protected traits listed above:
  • Refuse housing 
  • Make housing unavailable or falsely tell someone housing is unavailable 
  • Advertise a preference or dislike for a particular group
  • Create different terms or conditions for contracts and agreements
  • Offer different units, services, or housing 
  • Steering or urging someone to move to a specific area 
  • Blockbusting or convincing someone to sell their home because certain groups of people are moving to the area 
  • Refuse a mortgage or loan application
  • Provide incorrect or different information
  • Retaliate if someone files a complaint or acts as a witness 
While the federal Fair Housing Act protects some of these traits,
and the District of Columbia have some of the most comprehensive housing protections in the United States. 
In DC, this law applies to the District of Columbia itself, housing providers, and anyone renting or selling homes or commercial spaces, such as real estate agents, brokers, developers, landlords, or financing providers, like banks. 
If you have a complaint about a violation, you can report it to the
DC Office of Human Rights
. You can also contact the
Equal Rights Center
in Greater Washington, DC, for assistance with filing a complaint. 

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

The District of Columbia follows the regulations for accessibility requirements and modification requests outlined in the
Fair Housing Act of 1991
The regulations for reasonable accommodations apply to multifamily dwellings that are newly constructed for the first occupancy on or after March 13, 1991. The requirements include:
  • At least one accessible entrance that’s the primary entryway for residents and guests
  • Doorways and ramps must be at least 36-inches wide
  • Common areas, like kitchens and bathrooms, are accessible to those with disabilities 
  • Outlets, light switches, and thermostats must have accessible locations
  • A reinforced wall in all bathrooms with the ability to support a grab bar
Reasonable modification requests can vary depending on the location and dwelling. Examples of reasonable modifications include:
  • Requesting a different date for rent that aligns with income assistance checks
  • Requesting a service dog be allowed in a dwelling that normally doesn’t allow pets
  • Requesting to move to a different unit due to mobility concerns 
If your landlord or property manager isn’t willing to make reasonable accommodations or modifications or your home doesn’t meet these requirements, you can file a complaint through the state or HUD. 

How to file a fair housing complaint in the District of Columbia

Maybe while searching for a new apartment, you met all the requirements—but suddenly the apartment was no longer available after asking the landlord if they accepted housing vouchers. Or you set up a showing for a home, but when the realtor saw you, they attempted to show you a different area and home
Both of these instances are cases of discrimination, and if you believe you were targeted by housing discrimination based on your race, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or any of the other 19 protected traits in the District of Columbia, you can file a complaint. 
To file a complaint, you’ll need to contact The Office of Human Rights. You can file a complaint
, in-person, by fax, or by email within one year of the incident. When submitting a complaint, you’ll need to fill out the online form or the
OHR Questionnaire for Housing/Commercial Space
if emailing or faxing your complaint.  
You also can file a claim directly with the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
. You can file a complaint online, by phone, mail, or email.
If you plan on submitting a complaint through HUD, you must include:
  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the people involved and where the incident occurred
  • Description of the incident, including the date it occurred

State agency vs. local offices

Based on the size of DC, there is only one agency that handles housing discrimination complaints both locally and statewide. While other organizations exist to assist with filing claims, you’ll need to contact the DC Office of Human Rights if you’d like to file a complaint about housing discrimination in the District of Columbia. 
Otherwise, you can file a federal complaint through HUD. 

How to save money on home and renters insurance in the District of Columbia 

Everyone in the District of Columbia and the United States has a right to fair housing. The same can be said for affordable
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If you need to report a landlord for a housing violation in the District of Columbia, contact the DC Office of Human Rights and fill out a discrimination complaint questionnaire. You can do this
, in-person at 441 4th St NW, Suite 570 North, Washington, DC 20001, or emailing
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