Who is Protected from Housing Discrimination?

It is illegal for your landlord to discriminate against you in in the rental process in certain cases. Discrimination in housing is illegal under both state law and federal law, and in some places under local law. The Fair Housing Act, which is located at 42 U.S.C. chapter 45, is a federal law that prohibits housing discrimination. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides a list of the many other federal laws that relate to fair housing. The Iowa law that prohibits housing discrimination is located in Iowa Code chapter 216, which covers many civil rights. Additionally, your local government may have laws prohibiting discrimination in housing.

Who is protected?Icon of a question mark

A landlord does not have to rent to you, but they cannot discriminate against you based on certain characteristics. For example, if Star Wars is your favorite movie, and the landlord refuses to rent to you because they do not like Star Wars, that is not housing discrimination under Iowa or federal law.

A landlord cannot, however, discriminate against you based on the following characteristics:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
  • Familial status (like whether or not you are married or have children)
  • Disability

Additionally, under Iowa Code section 216.8B, your landlord cannot prevent you from having a service animal that qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or an assistance animal that qualifies under the Fair Housing Act or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Which landlords are prohibited from discriminating?

Not every landlord is prohibited from discriminating in all situations. These are called exceptions to the housing discrimination laws. These exceptions include allowing religious organizations to exclude certain people (except by color, race, or national origin) and certain situations where the landlord is also living in the rental. These exceptions are outlined in Iowa Code section 216.12 for the Iowa law and in 42 U.S.C. section 3603(b) and section 3607 for the federal Fair Housing Act.

For more information on the Fair Housing Act, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s page on Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act.

For more information on housing protections provided by both Iowa law and federal law, visit the Iowa Civil Rights Commission website.