Whether you have a Housing Choice Voucher, SSDI, or other form of rental assistance, your source of funds is protected from housing discrimination by federal and Virginia fair housing laws.
Source of funds refers to any source that lawfully provides funds to or on behalf of a renter or buyer of housing, including any assistance, benefit, or subsidy program, whether such program is administered by a governmental or nongovernmental entity.
The Fair Housing Act bars more than intentionally discriminatory conduct – it also bars policies that have an unjustified discriminatory effect based on a protected class.
A practice has a discriminatory effect where it actually or predictably results in a disparate impact on a group of persons or creates, increases, reinforces, or perpetuates segregated housing patterns because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
10.2 million people in 5.2 million American households use federal rental assistance. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the nation’s largest rental assistance program helping more than 5 million people in 2.2 million low-income families afford private rental housing. In a 2017 HUD report, housing choice voucher holder heads-of-households were 48.5% black, 17.3% Latino, 79.3% female, and 43.6% disabled.
By creating rental policies that automatically disqualify those using rental assistance, like Housing Choice Vouchers, from applying, property managers and landlord are causing a discriminatory effect that exclude people of color, women, families with children, and people with disabilities.
Even if the practice is not motivated by a discriminatory intent, the effect still results in unlawful discrimination.
Source of funds, or source of income, became a protected class in the Virginia Fair Housing Law on July 1, 2020. It is unlawful to discriminate because of any source that lawfully provides funds to or on behalf of a renter or buyer of housing, including any assistance, benefit, or subsidy program, whether such program is administered by a governmental or nongovernmental entity.
Examples of sources of funds include:
Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
Rent Relief Program Funds
Emergency rental assistance from nonprofit entities
Examples of discrimination may include:
A landlord charges more or requires an additional deposit when a Housing Voucher is presented.
Stating “No Section 8” in a rental listing or an ad.
A landlord making demeaning comments about whether or not a tenant deserves their disability benefits, their Housing Choice Voucher, or other assistance.
Refusing to rent to an otherwise well-qualified tenant because of stereotypes about people who receive financial assistance.
A landlord setting an income requirement for a tenant with a Housing Choice Voucher, but not factoring in the amount paid by the Voucher.*
*Though income qualifying criteria is not inherently discriminatory, housing providers must take care not to apply the criteria in a manner that will automatically disqualify tenants who receive assistance. Tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers have a portion of their rent paid by a third party. So if the income criteria is 3x the rent, the amount paid for by the Voucher should be subtracted from the total rent to ensure the criteria is only applying to the portion that the tenant is responsible for. See page four of the Virginia Real Estate Board’s Guidance document for more information.
Landlords are required by law to treat all applicants the same regardless of what legal source of funds are used to pay rent. This includes looking at credit and rental history, sufficiency of funds, and adhering to a background check. Receiving financial assistance should not automatically disqualify someone from renting.
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.
Have you experienced discrimination based on your source of funds?