If you need to consult with an attorney or would like more information on housing discrimination, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service.
Federal and Pennsylvania state law forbids discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, national origin or whether there are children in your family in connection with the purchase, financing or rental of residential property. Depending on the circumstances, if you have been discriminated against for any of these reasons you may have a legal cause of action against the person or organization responsible.
Some of the key illegal practices to look for include the refusal to negotiate the sale or rental; making the conditions of the rental or purchase worse than they were at first; or any kind of advertising that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or children in the family.
You should be particularly suspicious of any questions or requests for information that attempt to indicate your race or ethnic background, for example, applications that ask race or racially oriented questions or request photographs.
Within the past several years, housing discrimination law has been interpreted to provide that no pet policies cannot be applied to persons who have designated service and emotional support animals.
Please understand the description of the anti-discrimination laws outlined above only gives general information. Exceptions may apply or conditions may have to be met, depending on the specific law in question for a claim of discrimination to be enforceable under the law.
Housing anti-discrimination law applies not only to the sellers and renters of housing but to those people who work with them, such as rental agents and real estate agents. Consequently, everyone who works in the housing field should be very careful to avoid illegal discrimination.
If you believe that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you should immediately contact an appropriate agency to request an investigation of your claim. You have a choice of agencies in which your claim can be filed. If you live in the Erie County, you can file a complaint with the Erie County Human Relations Commission: 1001 State St., Renaissance Centre, Suite 812 phone: 814-451-7021. In the alternative, you can also file your housing discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission: http://www.phrc.pa.gov/File-A-Complaint/Pages/About-Filing-A-Complaint.aspx or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development: 800-669-9777 or https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/complaint-process
As a general rule, there is a short period of time in which you can file your complaint about housing discrimination. So, once you believe you may have been discriminated against in an unlawful fashion, you should act quickly to file a complaint. If you do not file a complaint within the time allowed by law, you may lose whatever legal rights you may have to damages or other relief. Once a complaint is filed, the appropriate agency will make an investigation of the complaint. They will speak to you and to the other parties involved. They will request documents and will interview various people who may have relevant information. The agency may very well carry out some efforts to settle the dispute. If the agency believes that it has found probable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred, it will press the case forward. You have the right to be free of illegal discrimination. But, remember, you must take prompt action to protect yourself and your family if you believe this kind of discrimination has occurred.
Information is current as of 5/2018.