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

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Under the Maryland 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, religion or creed, sex, age, ancestry or national origin, marital status, physical or mental disability sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, familial status, or ​source of income.
The federal Fair Housing Act was created so tenants and prospective home-buyers can choose a place to live without being discriminated against based on a protected class. This means landlords, realtors, mortgage brokers, and others must comply with laws that prevent them from denying housing based on arbitrary characteristics. 
Despite this, many people who are discriminated against don’t know where or how to report it. That’s why Jerry, the super app for renters insurance, has put together this complete guide to everything you need to know about Fair Housing Laws in Maryland.
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Does Maryland have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! Maryland has its own Fair Housing Laws, which apply to almost all housing providers, mortgage lenders, banks, credit unions, and appraisers. 
Maryland's Fair Housing Laws expand the list of protections beyond the primary seven listed in the federal statute. These  include: 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Familial status
  • Gender identity
  • Source of income
According to Maryland's Fair Housing Laws, it is illegal to: 
  • Commit acts of harassment, violence, intimidation, prejudice, or abuse that are directed towards individuals, families, or their residential properties. 
  • Treat prospective tenants differently during the screening process based on their race, religion, source of income, etc.
  • Request information about familial status, birth control methods, or family planning.
  • Attempt to steer a prospective tenant into or away from certain housing based on a protracted characteristic.
  • Say that a unit isn’t available when it is, in fact, available. 
  • Use discriminatory advertising; for example, posting an online ad that shows a clear preference for a specific type of person. 
  • Charge a specific group of people more for a security deposit.
Maryland Fair Housing regulations may seem cut and dry, but some exemptions allow property owners to have restrictive policies when it comes to real estate transactions.
For example, suppose a property owner rents out rooms in a building they currently occupy or rents out rooms in a building with five or fewer units. In that case, they do not need to follow the fair housing rules for gender identity, marital status, sex, or sexual orientation. However, they must still follow the guidelines regarding color, national origin, race, family status, religion, and disability.

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

Federal Fair Housing laws give people with a disability the right to request reasonable accommodations or modifications, and housing providers must comply.
While the terms "modification" and "accommodation" sound the same, they are actually different requirements. 
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, reasonable accommodation is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces.” Common accommodations include:
  • Waiving a no-pet policy for a tenant that has an emotional support animal
  • Allowing a third party to pay the rent for a tenant with a disability
  • Permitting an overnight caregiver despite a policy prohibiting overnight guests
A reasonable modification, on the other hand, is a structural change made to the interior or exterior of a housing unit or a common area to accommodate a resident with a disability. Common reasonable modification requests include:
  • Installation of a wheelchair ramp into a building
  • Lowering the entry threshold of a unit
  • Making a doorway wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through
  • Adding grab bars in the shower or near the toilet
  • Installing doorbells or fire alarms that flash for residents that are hard of hearing
Requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications should be made in writing so there is a record of your communications. In addition, you may need documentation from a health care provider if your disability isn’t readily apparent. 

How to file a fair housing complaint in Maryland

If you are the victim of housing discrimination in Maryland, you must file a complaint within one year of the issue.
The first step is to initiate an online inquiry with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. The form will take about 20 minutes to fill out and asks for the following: 
  • Personal information (name, birthdate, phone number, etc.)
  • Race, national origin, and disability
  • The name and phone number for an alternate contact
  • The name of your attorney (if you have one)
The form does not constitute the filing of a complaint; it is only preliminary information.
Once you submit the form, the Intake Unit will contact you to set up an interview to complete the process. You must complete the interview and sign and return any required documents before the complaint is officially filed. 
At that point, an investigator will review the case by analyzing documents, interviewing witnesses, conducting fact-finding, and more. 
If they believe there is probable cause to believe the complainant was discriminated against, they will take the necessary steps to resolve the matter (i.e. to bring the discriminatory practice into compliance with the law). 
If they do not find in your favor, you will have 15 days to file a Request for Reconsideration to the commission’s Deputy Director. 

State agency vs. local offices

For most circumstances, it’s best to report an incident directly to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights or HUD
However, Howard or Baltimore County or Baltimore City each has its own fair housing regulations. Other municipalities may have their own rules and regulations as well, so it’s always important to check with your local housing authority

How to save money on home and renters insurance in Maryland

No matter who you are, where you’re from, or how you identify, you have the right to safe and affordable housing. The same applies to renters insurance.
When you're looking for a place to live, Jerry can help you find affordable insurance, so you can protect what you value most. 
Jerry is a personal insurance broker that lives in your pocket. But don’t worry about buying tiny office furniture: Jerry is an app. Once you download Jerry, just answer a handful of questions that will take you roughly 45 seconds to complete, and you’ll immediately get car insurance quotes for coverage similar to your current plan. 
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FAQs

If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against in Maryland, you can report your landlord to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights via their website or to HUD. Be prepared with all the pertinent info, including the name and phone number of the landlord and the nature of the discrimination.

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