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Key takeaways

  • Almost half of LGBTQ renters fear discrimination when buying a home.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination against several protected classes, including sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • Some examples of housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation include a landlord refusing to rent to a same-sex couple, or a real estate agent showing that couple listings only in certain neighborhoods.
  • If you believe you’ve been discriminated against by anyone in the real estate industry, including a mortgage lender or broker, you have options.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination against people for several reasons. Among them: an individual’s sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

LGBTQ homebuyers should know their rights under the FHA, along with state laws. Here’s an outline of them.

LGBTQ homebuyer statistics

The number of home buyers and sellers who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual was four percent in 2015. That was the year the National Association of Realtors (NAR) first asked about sexual orientation in its annual “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” report. NAR added questions regarding gender and gender identity in 2019. In its 2023 “Profile”, five percent of those surveyed identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and another one percent prefer to self-describe.

What’s more:

  • LGBTQ homebuyers spent a median $245,000 when buying property, according to NAR’s “Profile of LGBTQ Home Buyers & Sellers.”
  • Eighty-one percent of LGBTQ buyers purchased a single-family property, according to NAR, while 48 percent bought a home in the suburbs or a subdivision.
  • Eighty-three percent of LGBTQ buyers bought a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, with the majority borrowing a conventional loan, according to NAR.
  • Forty-six percent of LGBT renters fear discrimination in the homebuying process, according to the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP). Thirteen percent did experience discrimination.
  • Mortgage loan approval rates for same-sex couples were three percent to eight percent lower than for heterosexual couples, according to a 2019 Iowa State University study that analyzed loan data from 1990 through 2015. The same study found that same-sex couples also paid more for financing: as much as $86 million more per year, collectively.
  • The LGBTQ homeownership rate stands at 49 percent, according to NAGLREP. The national average homeownership rate as of Q4 2023: 66.7 percent.

How to recognize housing discrimination

Key insights

Housing discrimination is the act of treating or acting differently towards residential buyers or renters or homeowners solely because of physical or biological features, including their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, family status or disability. It became illegal under the Fair Housing Act (aka the Civil Rights Act of 1968). Simply put, discrimination is prejudicial treatment or behavior. Refusing to extend a mortgage or charging more for one; refusing to sell or rent a home; or evicting someone for no reason other than the characteristics described above are all examples of housing discrimination.

While the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works to enforce the Fair Housing Act and address cases of discrimination, it’s up to homebuyers and renters to call out unfair practices. There are several clear signals of discrimination to watch for:

  • A mortgage lender who isn’t upfront about mortgage rates
  • A real estate agent who refuses to represent you
  • A seller or real estate agent who refuses to consider your bid, or who suddenly declares the house off the market
  • If you and your partner have to work harder to get financing, or pay more for it, compared with heterosexual couples
  • If you are turned away from certain rental properties, even when there’s a vacancy

How to protect yourself from housing discrimination

One way to protect yourself from housing discrimination is to work with an LGBTQ-friendly real estate agent. You can find such agents through NAGLREP online, or get referrals from family and friends for the best agents in your area.

In addition to finding an agent, shop around for a mortgage lender who you can be sure won’t discriminate against you. You can consult your local Fair Housing Authority for help.

What to do if you experience housing discrimination

If you believe you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination, there are several ways you can take action:

  • Speak with an attorney
  • File a complaint with HUD online or call 800-669-9777 (or 800-877-8339 for hearing impaired)
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau online
  • Call the Lambda Legal help desk
  • Contact your local American Civil Liberties Union
  • Contact your state’s NAGLREP chapter, if one exists

Housing discrimination laws and resources

Currently, 22 states and Washington D.C. have housing protection laws in place for those discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Wisconsin is one state that bans discrimination based only on sexual orientation.

In 2020, the Supreme Court issued an important decision that extended the concept of discrimination and protected classes to include sexual orientation and gender identity. It held that bias and prejudicial behavior against transgender and LGBTQ+ persons qualified as discrimination “because of sex” and is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Based on one of the cases involved in the decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, several states have adopted what is known as the Bostock rationale into their own state laws, including:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

In the longer term, advocates and supporters of the LGBTQ community are backing the proposed Fair and Equal Housing Act, which would amend current civil rights law to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and gender identity in credit and housing — specifically by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act. The bill was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in June 2023 but, as of this writing, not yet the Senate.

Frequently asked questions

  • The Fair Housing Act is relatively wide-ranging, but it doesn’t apply in some circumstances, including transactions or leases involving for sale or for rent by owner properties and some owner-occupied buildings. As a reminder, the law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status and disability.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act through its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO).

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