News & Media
law books
Halit Olmez / EyeEm / Getty Images

Careful Asking about COVID-19: It May Be a Fair Housing Issue

“National origin” is a Fair Housing Act protected class, and the law applies even if someone hails from a country with a high rate of COVID-19 infections.

ORLANDO, Fla. – “National origin” is a Fair Housing Act protected class, and the law applies even if someone hails from a country with a high rate of COVID-19 infections.

The Connecticut Fair Housing Center has said it’s received a lot of calls asking about the nation’s fair housing laws and whether they apply if the primary fear is spread of COVID-19, the pandemic spreading within communities.

The short answer is yes – discrimination based on country of national origin is illegal even if the goal is to limit the spread of the virus. The Fair Housing Act protection for people with disabilities may also apply.

The Connecticut Center created a list of things that cannot be done based on national-origin protections:

• It’s illegal to deny housing or shelter to someone from one of the countries most affected by the pandemic – or against someone who seems to be from one of those countries.

• If you’re from one of the countries most affected by COVIC-19, it’s illegal to have different rules for everyone else.

• It’s illegal for a landlord to try to evict a tenant because they’re from – or perceived to be from – a country most affected by COVID-19.

• If a tenant doesn’t have COVID-19 but a landlord or housing provider denies them housing or shelter because they believe the tenant might, it’s illegal.

• If a tenant doesn’t have COVID-19 but a landlord or housing provider attempts to quarantine them or impose different rules than those for other tenants, it’s illegal.

What if a tenant, buyer or seller actually has COVID-19? That situation is less clear, but blocking a rental or trying to create a quarantine could still have legal ramifications.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®