What to Do If You Suspect Housing Discrimination
Minnesota tenants facing housing discrimination must act fast to protect their rightsBy Doug Mentes, Esq. | Last updated on January 18, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- Who Is Protected From Discrimination?
- How Does a Landlord Discriminate?
- Exceptions to the Local Laws
- What Conduct Could Be Illegal Discrimination?
- What To Do When You Experience Possible Housing Discrimination?
Who Is Protected From Discrimination?Minnesota’s renters are protected by both the federal Fair Housing Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, as well as city code in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The laws are very similar, though the Minnesota laws go further than the federal laws of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—protecting more classes of people from housing discrimination based on their:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Receipt of public assistance
- Sexual orientation
- Familial status
How Does a Landlord Discriminate?Under Minnesota law, landlords and their real estate agents cannot refuse to rent to persons based on their protected statuses. Landlords and their agents cannot discriminate against any person or groups of persons from protected classes in the terms, conditions or privileges of a rental lease. Also, the landlord or their agent cannot discriminate against any person or groups of persons from protected classes by expressing, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification or discrimination within any:
- advertisement for the real property
- application for the real property
- inquiry of the applicant or prospective tenant
Exceptions to the Local LawsThere are exceptions for some specific property owners. An owner renting out their own home can deny tenants based on their sex (i.e. gender identity), marital status, receipt of public assistance, sexual orientation or disability. Also, nonprofit residences can discriminate based on sex. Landlords can deny applicants with children in some cases, too. If the rental is within an owner-occupied duplex, triplex or fourplex, the owner is not required to accept children. Also, if the rental is within a senior-only facility, the owner is not required to accept children—as, to be a senior-only facility, state law requires 80% of residents to be age 55 or older.
What Conduct Could Be Illegal Discrimination?There are some common signs applicants should look for when judging whether conduct is discriminatory. Perhaps the most common is an applicant being told a rental is not available soon after the rental is listed. However, there are many more signs a landlord’s conduct might be discriminatory, including:
- Telling applicants that they don’t take tenants on public assistance
- Telling applicants that they don’t take kids but do not appear to be an eligible senior-only facility
- Telling applicants that they won’t make reasonable accommodations for their disability
What To Do When You Experience Possible Housing Discrimination?Discrimination at the application stage requires the victim to act fast to determine whether the landlord is treating some applicants differently. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights conducts investigations into potential housing discrimination cases. If you suspect discrimination, a victim can file a complaint with the department, and if the department finds discrimination occurred, it will issue a report finding probable cause to believe the property owner discriminated. However, to receive damages from a landlord that commits housing discrimination, a victim must pursue a civil rights lawsuit in federal or state court. Sometimes the state attorney general may take the case, but often victims must seek out a civil rights attorney. There are many advantages to consulting with an attorney prior to filing a complaint with the department. Victims should seek out an experienced Minnesota civil rights attorney as early in the process as possible. For more information on this area of law, see our overviews on discrimination and landlord/tenant law.
What do I do next?Enter your location below to get connected with a qualified attorney today.
Popular attorney searches: Civil Rights Employment & Labor
Additional Discrimination articles
Attorney directory searches
Find top lawyers with confidence
The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.Find a lawyer near you