The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination against both homebuyers and renters in a number of protected classes, including gender identity and sexual orientation.

Key takeaways

  • Almost half of LGBTQ renters fear discrimination when buying a home.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination against several protected classes, including sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • Some examples of housing discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation include a landlord refusing to rent to a same-sex couple, or a real estate agent showing that couple listings only in neighborhoods known for housing LGBTQ residents.
  • If you believe you've been discriminated against by anyone in the real estate industry, including a mortgage lender or broker, you have options.

LGBTQ homebuyer statistics

LGBTQ buyers are more likely to be buying a home for the first time compared to non-LGBTQ buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). What’s more:

  • LGBTQ homebuyers spent a median $245,000 when buying property, according to NAR.
  • Eighty-one percent of LGBTQ buyers purchased a single-family property, according to NAR, while 48 percent bought a home in the suburbs or a subdivision.
  • Eighty-three percent of LGBTQ buyers bought a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, with the majority borrowing a conventional loan, according to NAR.
  • Forty-six percent of LGBT renters fear discrimination in the homebuying process, according to the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP). Thirteen percent did experience discrimination.
  • Mortgage loan approval rates for same-sex couples were 3 percent to 8 percent lower than for heterosexual couples, according to a 2019 study out of Iowa State University that analyzed loan data from 1990 through 2015. The same study found that same-sex couples also paid more for financing: as much as $86 million more per year, collectively.
  • The LGBTQ homeownership rate stands at 49 percent, according to NAGLREP. The national average rate as of the first quarter of 2023: 66 percent.

How to recognize housing discrimination

While the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works to enforce the Fair Housing Act and address cases of discrimination, it’s up to homebuyers and renters to call out unfair practices. There are several clear signals of discrimination to watch for:

  • A mortgage lender who isn’t upfront about mortgage rates
  • A real estate agent who refuses to represent you
  • A seller who suddenly claims their house is off the market
  • If you and your partner have to work harder to get financing compared with heterosexual couples
  • If you are turned away from certain rental properties, even when there’s a vacancy

How to protect yourself from housing discrimination

One way to protect yourself from housing discrimination is to work with an LGBTQ-friendly real estate agent. You can find such agents through NAGLREP online, or get referrals from family and friends for the best agents in your area.

In addition to finding an agent, shop around for a mortgage lender who you can be sure won’t discriminate against you. You can consult your local Fair Housing Authority for help.

What to do if you experience housing discrimination

If you believe you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination, there are several ways you can take action:

Housing discrimination laws and resources by state

Some states have housing protection laws in place for the LGBTQ community — but not all — and others have NAGLREP chapters.

In 2020, the Supreme Court issued an important decision that extended the concept of sex discrimination from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Four states have adopted what is known as the Bostock rationale, based on one of the cases involved in the decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia:

  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania

In the longer term, advocates and supporters of the LGBTQ community are backing the proposed Equality Act, which would amend current civil rights law to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and gender identity in credit and housing as well as employment, public accommodations, public education, federal funding and the jury system. The House of Representatives passed the bill in 2021, but it remains stalled in the Senate.

Frequently asked questions

  • The Fair Housing Act is relatively wide-ranging, but it doesn’t apply in some circumstances, including transactions or leases involving for sale or for rent by owner properties and some owner-occupied buildings. As a reminder, the law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status and disability.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act through its Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO).
  • Simply put, discrimination is prejudicial treatment. In housing, that includes anyone taking action against an individual based on one or more of the characteristics considered protected by fair housing law. This includes refusing to lend a mortgage or sell or rent a home to a member of a protected class, or evicting a member of a protected class, for no reason other than discrimination.