Religious Discrimination in South Dakota Apartments

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South Dakota protects tenants from discriminatory practices by their landlord based on their religion. Tenants also have similar protections under federal law.

Discriminatory Actions

Discrimination covers quite a bit more than just landlords who refuse to rent to certain religions. Discrimination includes:

  • retaliating (e.g., raising the rent, evicting, cutting off services, or harassing a tenant) against a tenant for reporting a problem
  • denying an apartment or application based on their religion
  • denying a loan based on their religion
  • charging different rent or offering different amenities based on religion
  • advertising an apartment that’s for or not for a person based on their religion
  • asking about a tenant’s religion

S.D. Codified Laws Sec. 20-13-20


Related Protections

Some religions are related to a tenant’s race or nationality, such as Judaism and Hinduism. 1987 Supreme Court case , Recent lower-level case . Both race and nationality are also protected from discrimination under South Dakota and federal laws offering additional protection to landlords who discriminate against such tenants. S.D. Codified Laws Sec. 20-13-20 .

Exception for Landlord-Occupied Homes

South Dakota has an exception called the “Murphy Rule”, which is intended to allow landlords to rent out extra rooms in their home without a large compliance burden. If the apartment is in the landlord’s own residence, then the landlord is free to discriminate regarding whom they rent to. This exception only applies to smaller homes, specifically where the house or building has four or fewer apartment units.

This exemption does not typically apply to advertising (e.g., “Only accepting white tenants”) or where the landlord uses a professional property manager or other real estate professional. Some states may have additional see restrictions. See state law for more details.

S.D. Codified Laws 20-13-20 .


Tenants may report discrimination regarding their religion to the federal government directly. They also have the option in South Dakota to report it to state authorities. Tenants may choose to report the problem to both.

What happens when a tenant reports a problem to the federal government? The most recent year we have data is from 2016. In 2016, 63.4% (60.0% from South Dakota) of discrimination cases were resolved in the year they were filed. 0 out of the 5 discrimination complaints from South Dakota were about discriminatory acts based on the tenant’s religion. Landlords that violate the federal Fair Housing Act can face civil penalties up to $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for future violations (each act of discrimination is a separate violation). In cases where the Justice Department is involved, civil penalties may rise to $100,000 per violation and federal courts can add additional damages. Landlords should also keep in mind the time and costs involved in defending against an action by the federal government. About 36% of complaints end up with a charge or settlement, based on 2016 data.

What happens when a tenant reports a problem to the authorities of South Dakota or a local government? They may ask the tenant for information to help bring the case, including any evidence (e.g., emails and pictures). If the government finds there’s sufficient information between the tenant’s complaint (as well as complaints from other tenants), the landlord may be charged and taken to court to defend themselves. South Dakota law does not describe the penalties for violations of the fair housing rules. This means a judge decides consequences on a case-by-case basis. .

Reporting a Violation

Tenants may report violations of federal laws (i.e., discrimination against children and families) through the HUD website – it can be done online or via phone. Tenants can report issues to their state government by looking at the state website. A google search for “report fair housing violation in South Dakota” will likely provide applicable information. In either case, tenants may be able to call the number on the page to ask whether their situation legally qualifies as rental discrimination.

Retaliation by the Landlord

Federal law (the Housing Act ) makes it illegal for landlords to harass a tenant in retaliation for reporting a problem. Examples of such harassment may include raising the rent or threatening to evict the tenant. Each such attempt is an additional violation. These protections do not apply if the tenant complained about something that they don’t have right to, so tenants should know whether it’s a violation. Dept of Housing and Urban Development.

By |September 12th, 2018|SD|