There are three different laws that protect people from discrimination in real estate transactions including buying and selling property, borrowing and lending money, and the people involved in the transactions.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is a federal law. It states that discrimination against people because of their race or color is illegal. There are no exceptions to this law and it applies to all properties and all transactions of property. It is enforced by Federal Court.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential real estate only but it extends the definition of the protected classes to include race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and mental or physical handicap.
- With regard to handicap, it is unlawful to refuse to permit a handicapped person to make reasonable modifications to an existing property if the modifications are necessary for the handicapped person to use and enjoy the property. Common areas of a multifamily dwelling must be readily accessible to the handicapped person as well.
- Housing for older persons is exempt from the protected class of familial status. Housing that is specifically designed to assist elderly persons and at least 80% of the units are occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older is exempt if there are published policies which state that the housing is intended for persons 55 years of age or older.
- Advertising the indicates a limitation or even a preference based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or mental or physical handicap is prohibited.
- The Federal Fair Housing Act is enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and complains must be filed within 1 year of the alleged violation.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was passed in 1945 and applies to all real property. It extends the list of protected classes to include race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, sex, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, familial status, disability, nationality, and source of lawful income. It is enforced by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.