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By Elaine Yang
Updated on Jun 10, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
In Washington, a landlord or owner cannot deny housing based on the following factors: race/color, national origin, creed, sex, sexual orientation/gender identity, veteran/military status, marital status, age, familial status, and more.
In the 1960s. the rise of the Civil Rights movement brought change and reform to the country—one such measure was the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which sought to address the systemic issue of housing discrimination. As a federal statute applying to all 50 states, this act has changed throughout the years to include protection against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
However, while the Fair Housing Act is applied equally throughout the country, the steps you need to take to file a complaint may differ depending on where you live. To help you learn about this process, homeowners, renters, and car insurance super app Jerry is here to break it down.
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Does Washington have a Fair Housing Act?
Yes, Washington has a Fair Housing Act! If you want to check it out, you’ll find it in Chapter 49.60 from Title 49 of the Revised Code of Washington. Under this statute, discrimination against protected classes—which are listed above—is illegal. You cannot:
- Refuse to rent or sell a unit following an offer
- Claim that housing is not available under false pretenses
- Advertise a unit by stating a preference for, or excluding one group over another
- Implement different conditions in a rental agreement
- Refuse a mortgage application
- Refuse to make reasonable changes to accommodate a disability
While you may think that the Fair Housing Act only applies to landlords and owners of the property, it applies to all parties who have an interest in housing rentals, including real estate agents, bankers, brokers, developers, landlords, and more. As such, if you believe you have been discriminated against while trying to find a home, you have a legal right to file a complaint with the Fair Housing Centre of Washington.
Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act
Information regarding accessibility requirements can be found in Chapter 49.60 of the Washington Fair Housing Act.
Since the 1991 Fair Housing Act, states were required to mandate reasonable accommodations and modifications. While both may sound similar, they address two different requirements.
If you have a disability, you or someone on your behalf may request a reasonable accommodation to maximize the enjoyment of your unit. This may be related to your housing provider's rules, policies, practices, or services, and includes situations like:
- If you have a service animal, your building has to make an exception to a “no pets” rule
- If you have mobility concerns, you may request a reserved parking spot located closer to the building
- The method of payment can be adjusted, if necessary
In contrast, a reasonable modification deals with structural changes you may require due to a disability. This may include the following:
- Installing an accessible entrance
- Modifications to your unit: Accessible light switches and wider doors for wheelchairs
- Reinforced bathroom walls able to support a grab bar
Make sure to discuss accommodations with your landlord. If they refuse a reasonable request, you’re entitled to file a complaint.
How to file a fair housing complaint in Washington
It can be incredibly frustrating to have your housing application turned down—despite the fact that you met all the necessary requirements. Maybe you mentioned something in passing about your religion—and the landlord suddenly lost interest in having you as a tenant. Or perhaps the real estate agent informed you that the listing was taken down—even though you know that they’re still showing the property to others.
In these situations, if you believe that you are being discriminated against based on your race/color, national origin, creed, sex, sexual orientation/gender identity, veteran/military status, marital status, age, familial status, or other factors, you should file a complaint under the Fair Housing Act.
To file a complaint, follow these steps:
- Contact or visit the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) within one year of the incident.
- Be sure that your complaint falls within the scope of WSHRC’s jurisdiction.
- Fill out the Complaint Intake Questionnaire and mail/fax it to their office
If you choose to, you may contact WSHRC directly by calling 1-800-233-3247 to report your incident.
State agency vs. local offices
Most of the time, the most straightforward way to deal with a housing discrimination claim in Washington is to follow the steps outlined above. However, since some municipalities have local agencies for their residents, they may have different procedures. If you live in one of the following jurisdictions, you’ll need to go to the relevant agency:
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Now that you’re aware of your housing rights, you’re in prime shape to get out there to rent or purchase a new home. With a new home comes the need for affordable home or renters insurance, and Jerry can help you find the best deal.
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How do I report a landlord in Washington?