DC law has protections against landlords discriminating by age, including the elderly, minors, and students. Discrimination includes not just denying a housing application, but also nearly every type of unequal treatment like charging different rents or segregating people in different sections of a building by age.
The District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977 explicitly prohibits discrimination of age (defined as 18 and over), families (which covers children), and matriculation (students, especially those in college).
Landlords are forbidden from discriminating against the protected classes. Acts of discrimination are defined very broadly, not just covering denial of housing but also:
- Refusing housing to someone because of one of the traits;
- Making housing unavailable to any person because of their traits;
- Advertising a preference or dislike for a group because of their traits;
- Falsely telling someone housing is unavailable because of their traits;
- Establishing different terms or conditions because of their traits;
- Providing different housing, units or services (such as repairs) because of particular traits;
- Urging someone to move to a specific area because of their traits;
- Persuading owners to sell because people of a particular trait are moving into the neighborhood;
- Refusing to make a loan because of a person’s traits;
- Providing inaccurate or different information depending on the traits; or
- Retaliating against someone for filing a complaint or acting as a witness.
Landlords violate the D.C. fair housing protection laws by separating buildings by age, prohibiting younger tenants from accessing amenities, refusing to rent to elderly, stating a preference for younger or older tenants, or charging more to someone because they are young, old, or a student.
There are two exemptions to the Fair Housing Act and D.C. laws:
The Mrs. Murphy exemption is intended to cover situations like when a hypothetical old lady converts part of her home to a rental to make supplemental income. Specifically, most of the Fair Housing Act doesn’t apply when the owner lives in the home or building and has 4 or fewer families in the building.
The second exemption is to reduce the compliance burden for landlords who are renting out their secondary homes. Specifically, it applies to single-family apartments where the private, individual landlord owns 3 or fewer single-family homes at the same time. The exemption doesn’t cover discriminatory advertising and doesn’t apply when a broker, agent, or salesperson is used.
Tenants can file a complaint via mail, online, or in person at 441 4th Street NW, Suite 570N, Washington, DC 2000. Specific questions by landlords or tenants about housing discrimination can be answered at (202) 727-4559. https://ohr.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ohr/publication/attachments/FairHousingoster_2016.pdf.