is unlawful to screen housing applicants on the basis of race,
color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial
status. However, asking housing applicants to provide
documentation of their citizenship or immigration status does
not violate the Fair Housing Act. The landlord has a legitimate
basis for seeking this information because it may affect how
long the individual is able to be present in the country and, as
a result, whether they will be able to fulfill the lease’s term.
plan to screen on this basis, it is wise to develop a policy and
then apply that policy uniformly and in a nondiscriminatory
fashion. You may consider asking every applicant if they are a
U.S. citizen. If the answer is no, you can request the
applicant to produce proof that they are lawfully in the U.S.A.
The kinds of documents you may see will include passports,
visas, “green cards”, or other documents from the INS showing
the person’s status.
following examples come straight from HUD:
A person from the
Middle East who is in the
applies for an apartment. Because the person is from the
the landlord requires the person to provide additional
information and forms of identification, and refuses to rent the
apartment to him. Later, a person from Europe who is in the
United States applies for an apartment at the same complex.
Because the person is from Europe, the landlord does not have
him complete additional paperwork, does not verify the
information on the application, and rents the apartment. This is
disparate treatment on the basis of national origin.
A person who is applying for an apartment mentions in the
interview that he left his native country to come study in the
States. The landlord, concerned that the student's visa may
expire during tenancy, asks the student for documentation to
determine how long he is legally allowed to be in the United
States. If the landlord requests this information, regardless of
the applicant's race or specific national origin, the landlord
has not violated the Fair Housing Act.