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

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The Minnesota Human Rights Act makes it illegal to deny housing to someone solely because of their race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, familial status, age, or sexual orientation.
When the federal Fair Housing Act passed in 1968, it provided expanded protections to prohibit discrimination and make it easier for people to seek housing. Building on that, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, established in 1977, has some of the country’s most extensive civil rights protections. Unfortunately, not all landlords necessarily follow the rules that are now in place.
Since laws and reporting processes can vary from state to state, it can be hard to know how to proceed if you’re a victim of housing discrimination. That’s why Jerry, the homeowners, renters, and car insurance super app, is here to give you an overview of what the Minnesota Human Rights Act is, what it means for fair housing, and how you can file a complaint if you experience housing discrimination.\
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Does Minnesota have a Fair Housing Act?

Minnesota honors the federal Fair Housing Act requirements, as well as those in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which are outlined in Chapter 363 of the Minnesota Statutes. 
Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), it’s illegal to discriminate in housing, employment, public services, education, public accommodations, and business based on a person’s race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, familial status, age, or sexual orientation.
Here are a few examples of discrimination that are prohibited under the MHRA when they occur solely based on a person’s protected class: 
  • Denying loans to applicants
  • Offering worse loan terms and conditions to applicants
  • Refusal to rent an apartment or home 
  • Refusal to make necessary repairs
  • Refusal to make reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability
  • Eviction of a tenant
These requirements apply to property owners, managing agents, financial institutions, real estate brokers, and more.
If you believe your housing or other rights have been violated, you can make a report on the Minnesota Department of Human Rights website or call their discrimination helpline at 1-833-454-0148, which has translation and interpretation services. 
Calling or filling out the online form doesn’t mean you’ve got an official discrimination charge that has been filed. The department will first review the form to evaluate whether the incident would be considered a violation. You can take a closer look at the investigation process here.

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act, Human Rights Act

Section 363A.40 of the Minnesota Human Rights Act outlines requirements regarding accessible rental housing
An “accessible” rental unit here is defined as “an accessible rental housing unit that meets the persons with disabilities requirements of the State Building Code.”
A landlord that owns accessible rental housing units is required under the MHRA to give priority for those units to individuals with disabilities. If there is a household that doesn’t have any individuals with disabilities living in an accessible unit and a comparable “non-disability-equipped” unit is available at the same rent price, they must be offered the non-equipped unit if a disabled person has signed a rental agreement for the accessible unit.
Individuals generally can’t be denied housing in Minnesota due to having a service or emotional support animal, and they can’t require a pet deposit for them. However, a tenant must request a reasonable accommodation for the animal first. 
However, a landlord can deny a tenant's request to have a service animal if the request will cause an “undue burden,” which could be financial.
As for federal requirements mandated by the Fair Housing Act and Section 504, a landlord must make reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications for a tenant with a disability. 
Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to a rule, practice, policy, or service that will give a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling space, including common use areas. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
  • Allowing a tenant to move to a ground-floor unit
  • Allowing a service animal in a building that doesn’t allow pets
  • Adjusting payment schedule to better accommodate when an individual receives income assistance
Reasonable modifications involve making structural changes to a dwelling that will be rented to a person with a disability. These could include: 
  • Installing an entrance ramp
  • Installing handrails inside the unit
  • Adjusting layout to be wheelchair-accessible
If your landlord refuses to make modifications or accommodations for your disability, you can file a complaint under the Fair Housing Act. 

How to file a fair housing complaint in Minnesota

If you’ve experienced housing discrimination in Minnesota, there are several ways you can go about filing a complaint. Importantly, the office you contact must have jurisdiction over your specific complaint. 
At the state level, you can file a fair housing complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. At the city level, there’s the Saint Paul Human Rights Division and the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights that enforce fair housing rules for their respective cities.
Here’s what to know about reporting housing discrimination to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights:
  • You can fill out an online report or call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 (translators and interpreters available)
  • Incidents must be reported within a year
  • An attorney isn’t necessary to file a charge with the MDHR, but a person filing a charge can pursue private legal action.
  • A step-by-step overview of the investigation process can be viewed here.
You can also report a complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You have the option of doing so online, by phone, or via a mail-in form or letter.
If you’re seeking legal counsel, Minnesota Housing lists potential options on its website.

State agency vs. local offices

In most cases, you should be able to report housing discrimination complaints to the MDHR. However, Minneapolis and St. Paul also have their own offices that enforce fair housing rules.
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How to save money on home and renters insurance in Minnesota

Everyone deserves a place to call home. Finding the right place to land can be easier said than done, but once you do, protecting it with the right insurance with the help of Jerry can be a lot easier.
As a licensed insurance broker and the top-rated insurance app, Jerry offers end-to-end support in the search for insurance. In less than a minute, you can answer a few quick questions and start comparing customized quotes from top insurance providers.
Once you pick the right policy for you, Jerry can even help you with making the switch to your new policy and canceling your old one. 
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FAQs

If you’ve experienced housing discrimination, you can fill out an online report with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or call its Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 (translation and interpretation services available).

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