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

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In Tennessee, landlords, brokers, real estate agents, and banks can not deny anyone housing or mortgage financing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
The 1968 Fair Housing Act was a direct result of the push for equality started by the Civil Rights movement. Its goal is to ensure safe and fair housing for all those in the housing market. As times change, the Act evolves, and as of 2021, protected classes include gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that applies to all 50 states, but each state has made its own enhancements, and the process of filing a complaint will vary based on your location. To help you figure it all out, Jerry, the super app for homeowners, renters, and car insurance, is here to help! 
You deserve to know your rights and learn what to do if they are violated. Here is some information you will need about fair housing in Tennessee.
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Does Tennessee have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! You'll find the Fair Housing Act in Chapter 21 Human Rights, Part 6: Discrimination in Housing and Finance of the Tennessee Codes. Under this code, it is illegal to discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. Discrimination against a protected class in the housing market is not limited to but includes the following:
  • Refusing to negotiate, make unavailable, deny rent or sell a property following a bona fide offer
  • Forcing terms and conditions on one group of people but not others
  • Printing or publishing any notice or advertisement that indicates a preference for one group over another
  • Stating that a residence isn't available to one group when it is indeed available
  • Refusing a mortgage application 
These rules and regulations apply to anyone involved in selling or renting property in Tennessee, such as landlords, real estate agents, banks, brokers, developers, and more. While looking for a new home, if you feel mistreated or that your options are limited due to discrimination, you have a right to file an inquiry with Tennessee Human Rights Commission.

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

Section 4-21-601 of the Tennessee Human Rights Code also provides guidance on the accessibility requirements so that disabled persons can have fair and full enjoyment of their residence
1991 Fair Housing Act was another federal law that recognized the need for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in the housing market. 
An individual with a disability or someone on their behalf can request a reasonable accommodation. Accommodation refers to rules and policies that may need amending to meet the needs that some disabilities may require. Common accommodation requests are:
  • Requesting a seeing-eye dog at a location with a no pet policy
  • Requesting a reserved parking spot located closer to the building for a tenant that has mobility concerns
  • Allowing a health aid access to areas like the laundry room which is usually reserved for tenants
A reasonable modification request is a physical change that needs to be made to a home. Some requests may be small, like adjusting the location of light switches, while others are more structural such as raising or lowering the heights of kitchen and bathroom cabinets and fixtures.
Landlords and owners should work to meet your needs within a reasonable timeframe. Refusing to make reasonable modifications or accommodations is considered discrimination, and you can file a complaint if this happens to you.

How to file a fair housing complaint in Tennessee

Any form of discrimination is hard to talk about, and it can be difficult to admit when it happens to you. You have a basic right to live where you want and if you feel that someone has tried to block, misdirect, or take that right based on how you look, who you are, or where you're from, you can take action
Here's how to do it: Complete the discrimination complaint form within 180 days of the incident. Download this PDF and submit it to Tennessee Human Rights Commission Central Office via mail, email, or fax. 
Mail to: Tennessee Tower
Tennessee Human Rights Commission Central Office
312 Rosa L. Parks Ave, 23RD Floor
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
Fax: (615)253-1886
Email: ask.thrc@tn.gov
Anonymous complaints are not accepted aside from your identifying information, and here’s what you will need to complete the form:
  • Name and address of the individual who discriminated against you
  • Where and when the discrimination took place
  • What role do they play in regards to housing (landlord, broker, etc)
  • The type of property involved

State agency vs. local offices

All fair housing complaints are reported directly to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, no matter where you live in the state. Local agencies and outreach programs are there to help you navigate this process, offer legal advice, education, and rental assistance:
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How to save money on home and renters insurance in Tennessee

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FAQ

If you need to report your landlord for unfair housing practices in Tennessee, complete the discrimination complaint form and email it to the Tennessee Human Rights Commission at 
ask.thrc@tn.gov.

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