Fair housing laws forbid discrimination in housing transactions because of national origin.

One example of illegal national origin discrimination presented itself in the form of a Beaverton apartment complex rule stating that residents could not cook with curry in their units. Whether the intention was to mitigate clean up costs (curry use can cause similar clean up issues as tobacco smoke, getting into the carpeting, wallpaper, draperies, etc.); an attempt to deal with neighbors' complaints about the strong odor of the spice wafting into common areas; or an attempt to deter those strong odor of the spice wafting into common areas; or an attempt to deter those from India from living there is not clear.

All are real possibilities but the intention is not key. Key to this story is the fact that an individual or family from India might or other Middle Eastern counties might likely cook with curry on any given day than those from other cultures. It just so happens there is a rather high proportion of people of Indian descent in the Beaverton area. Whether the apartment complex intended to or not, their no-curry-rule disproportionately impacted people of one or more nations of origin over others and was, therefore illegal. In this particular case, the apartment management was pleased to eliminate the rule when we brought its impact to their attention.

What Does "National Origin" Protection Mean?

Your national origin refers to your birthplace, ancestry, language, and/or customs. It is illegal for a landlord to deny housing or treat someone differently in a housing transaction because:

  • Of a person's name, appearance, accent, or participation in customs associated with a nationality.
  • The landlord incorrectly perceives the person as being associated with a particular nationality.
  • The person associates with people of a particular national origin.

Fair housing laws apply to rental housing, home sales, home lending, home insurance, and advertising. No one can deny housing, limit access to housing, discourage someone seeking a home or create different rules, fees, or standards because of the national origin of a household.

Some typical examples of discrimination based on national origin include steering tenants of a particular national origin to one section of an apartment complex, refusing to make repairs to units occupied by people of a particular national origin, or prohibiting or limiting a tenant's guests because of the national origin of the tenant or his/her guests.

What Recourse Do Residents Have if Others Harass Them Because of their National Origin?

If both parties are associated with the same housing provider (i.e., the landlord rents to both parties), the housing provider has a legal responsibility to protect residents from being harassed based on their national origin, just as with any other protected class. If a housing consumer is harassed because of his/her national origin and the landlord is aware of this harassment, the landlord has the responsibility to intervene. All tenants have the legal right to peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Continued harassment could be grounds for evicting the offending tenant.

Do Fair Housing Laws Apply to US Citizens Only?

It is not illegal to rent to an undocumented individual; housing is different than employment laws. Anyone living in the United States has fair housing protections. If someone is living in the US without documentation, they still have the right to file a fair housing complaint but may choose not to since the information will become public record. The Fair Housing Council gives confidential information and assistance.

A number of communities across the country attempted to make renting to those in the country without proper documentation illegal.

Please review our screening, FAQs, translations, and limited English proficiency pages on this site for more information.