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

Under Virginia’s Fair Housing Act, you can’t be denied housing based on race, religion, age, disability, or gender identification.
Written by Matthew Lynaugh
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
The Virginia Fair Housing Act protects home renters and buyers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, disability, source of funds, sexual orientation, gender identity, or military status. 
A landmark victory for the social rights movement, the 1968 Fair Housing Act guarantees fair housing for everyone in all 50 states. All housing providers, managers, real estate agents, and banks must abide by the law to ensure every person has the right to a home that fits their needs.
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law, but the process of filing a complaint can vary by state. Thankfully,
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Does Virginia have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! The Virginia Fair Housing Law can be found in
Chapter 36
of the Code of Virginia. This law states that it is illegal to do any of the following based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, source of funds, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability
  • Refuse to rent, sell, or finance a housing transaction
  • Publish any notice or advertisement that demonstrates preference toward one group
  • Represent an available unit as unavailable 
  • Deny access to listing services or real estate brokers
  • Include any restrictive covenant in a sale or rental lease
The regulations laid out in the Fair Housing Act apply to everyone renting or selling a property, as well as real estate agents, banks, savings institutions, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and appraisers. If you have reason to believe your right to fair housing was violated, you can file a complaint with the
Virginia Fair Housing Office

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

A pivotal development in the Fair Housing Act was the passage of accessibility requirements for the design and construction of new multi-family homes. Defined as any project with four or more units built after March 13, 1991, the seven requirements are:
  • Accessible entrances on an accessible route
  • Accessible public and common-use areas
  • Usable doors
  • An accessible route in and throughout the unit
  • Accessible light switches, outlets, and environmental controls 
  • Reinforced walls in bathrooms
  • Usable kitchens and bathrooms
These requirements were put forth on the national level and still order reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in all multi-family residences. Despite sounding similar, they each have different specifications.
Any person with a disability can make a reasonable accommodation request to eliminate any barrier preventing them from fully enjoying any aspect of their housing. Common examples of reasonable accommodations are:
  • Assigning a more accessible parking space
  • Permitting an applicant to submit a housing application via different means
  • Transferring a tenant to a ground floor unit
A reasonable modification is a physical alteration made to the existing property that gives an individual full access to their home. Popular reasonable modifications are: 
  • Widening door frames
  • Changing doors to swing outward instead of inward
  • Placing a grab bar in the bathroom
  • Installing a ramp to the building’s entrance
The Fair Housing Act mandates that your housing provider must make reasonable changes to accommodate any disability. If they refuse to do so, you are well within your rights to file a complaint.

How to file a fair housing complaint in Virginia

So what happens if you meet all the landlord’s requirements and still aren’t considered a worthy tenant? Or how about if you attend an open house and the listing agent tells you it's unavailable and then gives someone else a tour? 
If you believe you were denied a fair housing opportunity based on race, color, religion, gender, or any other protected characteristic, you can file an official complaint and fight for damages with a fair housing inquiry.
Here’s how to do this in Virginia:
  • Fill out the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form, which can be found
  • If your complaint is accepted, an investigator will interview you, the respondent, and any relevant witnesses.
  • Conciliation is coordinated in which the parties attempt to resolve the complaint and mutually agree to terms.
  • If conciliation is unsuccessful, the case continues until the investigator completes his or her final investigative report (FIR).
  • The FIR is presented to the Fair Housing Board who will either dismiss the complaint or issue a charge of discrimination
To submit your complaint form by mail, address it to the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation at 9960 Mayland Dr, Suite 400, Richmond, VA 23233-1485.
You can also file a complaint directly with the
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
. HUD will then work with the Virginia Fair Housing Office to investigate the complaint.

State agency vs. local offices

It is generally best to file complaints to the Virginia Fair Housing Office, but some jurisdictions use their own agencies when dealing with these inquiries. If you reside in one of the following jurisdictions, here are your available options:
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How to save money on home and renters insurance in Virginia

All individuals have the right to fair housing opportunities in Virginia. Once you get the keys to a home that fulfills all your needs, you’ll want to protect it with affordable
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Yes, requesting an assistance or service animal would fall under the reasonable accommodation category. If you have a disability that requires a service animal, this accommodation request should be granted by your landlord.
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