Fair Housing: Questions and Answers
Q. I would like to limit the number of people in my apartments
to two adults and two children. Is there a problem with this?
A. HUD's current, general guideline is two persons per average-sized
bedroom. In a two bedroom apartment, the tenants could be four
adults, two adults and two children, or one adult and three children.
Q. I have always had older persons renting my apartments.
Why can't I keep it that way? It would be very upsetting to my
current tenants to have children in the building.
A. You cannot rent just to older persons unless you meet the
qualifications for being designated as housing for older persons.
You cannot choose particular tenants based on the preferences
of your current tenants if those preferences are based on any
of the protected personal characteristics.
Q. I have a woman who wants to rent my house. I'm afraid she
won't be able to maintain the yard and make repairs. Do I have
to rent to her?
A. If she is an otherwise qualified tenant, you cannot refuse
to rent to her because of her sex. Many women are fully capable
of maintaining a property, or they may choose to hire someone
to do it for them. You can always check references, as long as
you check for women and men.
Q. I recently painted my apartments. Must I rent to people
in wheelchairs who may bump into and mark the walls?
A. Yes. You cannot deny housing to qualified persons with
disabilities. If there is damage that would be considered more
than normal wear and tear, you may recover the repair costs through
the damage deposit.
Q. Can I refuse to rent to couples living together who are
A. State and federal laws do not include marital status as
a protected personal characteristic, although some city ordinances
do. Keep in mind that a legal marriage does not assure a stable
relationship or desirable tenancy. It's better to check references
of each adult applicant and rent to the applicants who are most
Q. Can I refuse to rent to people whose sexual orientation
A. State and federal laws do not include sexual orientation
as a protected personal characteristic, although some city ordinances
Q. The apartments on the upper floors of my building have
balconies. I don't think they're a safe place for children to
play. Can I refuse these apartments to families with young children?
A. No. It is up to the parents or guardians who will be renting
the apartment to decide if it is a suitable place for their family.
Q. Can I set a dollar amount of income required of my applicants?
A. Yes, you may establish a reasonable minimum income criteria
necessary for the applicant to afford the unit. This standard
should be applied uniformly to all applicants. Keep in mind that
the income need not come from employment. Some persons have sufficient
verifiable income from other sources that would enable them to
Q. A young man came to look at an apartment, and he did not
appear to be well. I'm afraid he has AIDS. Do I have to rent to
A. Yes. If he is otherwise qualified, you cannot refuse to
rent to him because you believe he might have AIDS. A person with
AIDS, or who is believed to have AIDS, is protected under the
law from discrimination on the basis of physical disability. Current
medical information is that AIDS is not contagious through casual
contact; there is no danger to you or your other tenants by renting
to someone with AIDS.
Q. A family with several children came to look at one of our
apartments. The children were noisy and unruly, yelling and running
in the hallways, and the parents made no attempt to control the
children's behavior. Do I have to rent to this family?
A. No, if you have reason to believe the family would not
take care of the property or would not abide by the rules. Checking
references may give you some additional information about the
past and present behavior of this family. You cannot refuse to
rent to a person just because they have children, but you may
refuse to rent to a person that you believe will not fulfill tenancy
Q. My landlord refuses to repair the furnace in the house
I rent, and I never know if I will have heat or not. Can I just
stop paying rent to force him to make the repairs?
A. This is not a fair housing issue, unless the landlord is
targeting you in some way because of a protected characteristic.
This is a situation covered by the Iowa Landlord Tenant Law, which
specifies a procedure to follow to require the landlord to make
necassary repairs to the property.
Q. If an applicant or tenant requests an accommodation due
to a disability, can a housing provider require documentation
that he or she needs the accommodation?
A. A housing provider may ask an applicant or tenant to verify
that they have a disability and need accommodation. The type of
verification needed will depend on the specifics of the situation
and may be provided by a doctor or other medical professional,
a peer support group, or a service agency. However, the applicant
or tenant is not required to tell the housing provider the specifics
of their disability or to give the housing provider a full copy
of their medical history. They only need to provide proof that
they have a covered disability, that an accommodation is needed,
and why the accommodation is needed, and why the accommodation
they are proposing will be helpful.
Q. Can a housing provider legally evict a tenant who has filed
a fair housing complaint and is now delinquent on their rent?
A. A housing provider may follow previously established policies
regarding non-payment of rent so long as the policy is being enforced
consistently and in all situations regardless of whether a tenant
is involved in a fair housing complaint or not. Housing providers
may take appropriate action that would be applied to all tenants.
However, it is unlawful to retaliate against persons who file
complaints even where the discrimination complained of is not