By the Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid of North Carolina

The Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid of North Carolina works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through education, outreach, public policy initiatives, advocacy and enforcement.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.


This publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and finding of the work are dedicated to the public.

The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government. The material in this presentation is for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

We wish to thank the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) for the data provided regarding housing complaints. In addition, we would like to thank local government officials for providing information about local fair housing ordinances, as well as the Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research in Cleveland, Ohio.

Fair Housing Laws in North Carolina

In North Carolina, fair housing laws are found at the federal, state, and, in some jurisdictions, local level. Which law(s) apply in a particular situation generally depends on where the alleged housing discrimination occurred. A brief summary of the fair housing laws in North Carolina, as well as the complaint process, is provided below.

Federal Fair Housing Act
On April 11, 1968, seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress passed, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed, the federal Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq.), Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

The federal Fair Housing Act  (“federal FHA”) was enacted with two broad mandates: (1) to prohibit discrimination in housing; and (2) to promote integrated housing patterns through a requirement that the federal government administer programs and activities in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing.

The federal FHA initially prohibited discrimination in the rental or sale of housing because of race, color, religion, and national origin. Congress amended the FHA in 1974 to prohibit discrimination based on sex, and in 1988 to prohibit discrimination based on disability and familial status. The provisions relating to race, color, religion, national origin, and sex prohibit discrimination against or in favor of a person based on his or her membership in a particular group. Thus, refusing to rent to someone because she is African American or Jewish or a woman would be prohibited, as would only renting to African Americans, Jews, or women.

The term “familial status” is defined under the FHA to mean one or more individuals less than 18 years of age living with a parent, legal custodian, or designee of such a parent or legal custodian. This provision also protects individuals who are in the process of securing legal custody of minor and  women who are pregnant.

A “disability” is defined under the federal FHA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, a record of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include seeing, walking, reaching, lifting, hearing, speaking, caring for self, interacting with others, learning, etc. The federal FHA prohibits discriminatory housing practices because of the disability of an individual  buyer or renter, a person residing in or intending to reside in a dwelling after it is sold or rented, or of any person associated with a buyer or renter.

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