Fair Housing Act: What Not to Say in Your Rental Listing

When you list your rental property online, you may not be aware that there are certain things you cannot say in the listing. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 sets out a clear set of guidelines designed to ensure fair access to housing for anyone. There are seven classes protected by the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must avoid including certain things when you list a rental property.

Family Status

Everyone welcome here shutterstock_693568171 The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from expressing a preference for tenants based on whether they are married or have children. You can describe a property as having a family room or a large back yard. You cannot explicitly mention anything about your property being perfect for families or perfect for a single person

There is an exception to this guideline. If you’re advertising a housing unit or facility designed for senior citizens, you are allowed to say that you do not permit families with children. In order to state this, though, you must be clearly advertising housing for seniors. This includes communities designed for those aged fifty-five and up.


The Fair Housing Act itself doesn’t explicitly deal with gender. However, many states have laws prohibiting a landlord from discriminating against or expressing a preference for tenants based on gender. This means you cannot say that you are looking for male or female renters. There is an exception to this guideline: if you are renting a property that has a common living area and you’re looking specifically for a male or female. You can also use phrases like “bachelor apartment” or “master bedroom” regardless of whether your rental is a shared space.


Your listing cannot indicate any sort of limitation or exclusion as a result of a disability. Even if your property is not accessible, you cannot use phrases like “wheelchairs not permitted”. You can, however, describe the property as having or not having an elevator or a wheelchair ramp.

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You are not allowed to advertise that you prefer or do not prefer any specific religion. Phrases like “a Christian property” or “a Catholic neighborhood” are not allowed. You are allowed to describe any sort of religious amenity or service available on the property.

Color/Race/National Origin

You should never bring up these last three classes in a rental advertisement. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from using phrases like “Asian neighborhood” or “Caucasian home”. You are also never allowed to ask a prospective tenant about their immigration or citizenship status. Some states do permit landlords to require renters to show proof of citizenship or eligibility for work, but in others, it is illegal to ask about those things at any point. Make sure to check your state’s laws before you venture into this territory.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing units, or to make rental properties unavailable or more expensive for certain tenants as a result of any of the things listed above. Harassment, failure to complete maintenance, limiting access to property amenities, or evicting a tenant as a result of these statuses is also prohibited.

The Fair Housing Act guidelines will help you determine what is and is not acceptable to write in your rental listing. You should always keep in mind that, while the Fair Housing Act dictates leasing advertisements nationally, some cities and states have their own laws that landlords will need to follow. Make sure to research landlord and tenant laws in your area to make sure your listing isn’t in violation of any regulations.

Source: PayRent