State and federal fair housing laws were established to protect potential or actual tenants, home buyers, and property owners from discriminatory practices. Vermont’s fair housing law prohibits landlords, property managers, neighbors, condominium associations, mortgage brokers, realtors, and newspapers from discriminating against tenants or property owners because of their membership in a protected category (see below). Discrimination may take the form of refusing to rent or sell a property or to provide a mortgage. Other forms of discrimination include offering different terms and conditions of rent or sale of a property or for a mortgage, advertising preferences for certain types of people or expressly excluding others, or harassing a tenant, buyer, or borrower. (See the Vermont Fair Housing law for a full description of the prohibitions.) While there are many legitimate business reasons for decisions made daily about property rental, sale, or financing transactions, the decisions cannot be based solely or even partially on the renter’s, buyer’s, or borrower’s membership in a protected category.
The protected categories in housing in the State of Vermont are race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, age, persons with minor children, gender identity, and receipt of public assistance. Everyone is a member of several protected categories. It is illegal for anyone to make housing decisions based on a person’s membership in the above-mentioned categories. For example, a property owner or his/her representative cannot refuse to rent to another person because of the color of a person’s skin.
Some general frequently asked questions related to housing include:
Do I have to rent to someone who has a criminal record? No, a criminal record is not a protected category in Vermont or under federal law. However, if you rent to some White people who have criminal records and then you turn down a Latino person who has a similar criminal record, that could be a case of discrimination based on race. A good guideline is this: do not make any housing decisions based on a person’s membership in a protected category.
What if someone will not rent to me because I am a White, heterosexual male? All persons are members of one or more protected categories. In other words, a property owner cannot refuse to rent to someone because they are heterosexual or White or male.
What if a property owner does not rent to me and I think it is because of my membership in one of the protected categories, but he/she never said that was the reason? This is not an unusual situation. To prove discrimination there needs to be some evidence that the reason you were turned down is because of membership in a protected category. This can be direct evidence (e.g., the owner says, “I do not rent to women.”) or indirect evidence (e.g., the rental records show that no single woman has ever been a tenant at the complex). However, merely being a member of a protected category does not mean that there are not legitimate reasons to refuse to rent to you. Some legitimate reasons for refusing to rent to someone include having a bad credit history or bad references from previous landlords.
Information and Training
Specially trained staff members at the Vermont Human Rights Commission are available to provide fair housing training to Vermont citizens and organizations. Trainings are designed to meet your organization’s specific needs. HRC has provided training for a variety of organizations including Vermont Realtors Association, landlord associations in Montpelier, Rutland, and St. Johnsbury, architects, Vermont Homeshare, Winooski Housing Authority, Lake Champlain Co-op Housing, and Community Development grantees. In addition to trainings, HRC has provided lunchtime speakers for non-profit and service organizations such as the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. There is no fee for fair housing training. If you have questions or wish to schedule a training please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information provided on this website is not intended to be legal advice. You are encouraged to seek specific legal advice from an attorney if you have a question regarding housing discrimination. The HRC provides information but not legal advice to tenants or property owners.
Please click on the links below for more information about specific housing issues.