Real Estate Terms

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988

The Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988 enforces Title VIII and makes it illegal to discriminate against families with children and people with disabilities.

With our guidance and years of expertise in real estate, we’re here to teach you the ins and outs of the FHAA and its impact on the housing market. This knowledge will be imperative for passing your real estate exam and promoting fair housing as a future real estate professional.

In this post, we’ll define the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, explain why its creation was necessary, and discuss its positive impact on the real estate industry. Keep reading to become a fair housing pro!

What Is the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988?

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 strengthens the original Fair Housing Act and extends its protection to two additional groups. Thanks to this amendment, the federal government has more power to enforce antidiscriminatory laws and combat discriminatory housing practices.

This act also gives power to more homebuyers and renters than the first FHA, as its safety net covers families with children and individuals with disabilities. To this day, real estate professionals and landlords are required to abide by the Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968

Before we explore how these amendments impacted fair housing law, we must give some background on the original Fair Housing Act itself. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits discrimination against protected classes in real estate. 

When the Fair Housing Act was first passed in 1968, it covered only the following five protected classes:

  1. Race
  2. Color
  3. National origin
  4. Religion
  5. Sex (sexual orientation and gender identity)

Let’s discuss each protected class to determine how and why the FHA defends its rights.


Race is considered a protected class under the FHA, which means landlords and real estate agents cannot deny housing to or treat racial minorities differently. 


Landlords and real estate professionals cannot discriminate based on a homebuyer’s or renter’s skin color. For example, if a landlord only considers rental applications for white tenants, then they are violating the FHA.

National Origin

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on a home seeker’s cultural background or ethnicity. Housing providers may not deny housing to protected classes because of prejudices against their birthplace or language.


The FHA protects all religions, which means landlords and real estate professionals must give equal housing opportunities to buyers regardless of their beliefs. 


The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on a home seeker’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Housing providers must treat same-sex couples and transgender tenants as they would any other protected class. 

Why Did the Fair Housing Act of 1968 Fail?

While the Fair Housing Act was a crucial step in the fight for civil rights and equal housing opportunities, it still left much to be desired.

For example, other groups were still being discriminated against and denied housing, including families with children and people with physical or mental impairments. 

Additionally, the Fair Housing Act was written in a way that made it weak and challenging to enforce. The housing market already had laws, regulations, and practices that undercut many vital tenants of the FHA.  

How Did the Fair Housing Amendments Act Improve the FHA?

The failures of the original FHA explain why the Amendments Act was signed into law in 1988. Not only did the Fair Housing Amendment Act strengthen Title VIII and make it easier to enforce, but it extended its coverage to two new protected characteristics:

  1. Familial status
  2. Disabilities (physical or mental)

Familial Status 

Before these amendments, no laws prohibited housing providers from discriminating based on familial status. But now that the Fair Housing Act covers families as a protected characteristic, it’s illegal for landlords to deny housing to tenants with children or charge them extra.


The Fair Housing Amendment Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against people with physical or mental impairments. In addition, apartment buildings and other housing units must be accessible and make reasonable accommodations for disabled people. 

What Types of Housing Does the FHAA Cover?

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing types, including

  • Single-family homes
  • Multifamily homes
  • Private housing
  • Apartments
  • Condominiums
  • Mobile homes
  • Nursing homes

If you’re a protected class living in a dwelling or place of residence, you can rest assured that the Fair Housing Amendment Act has your back. 

What Types of Housing Does the FHAA Not Cover?

It’s important to note that the following housing types are not covered under the FHAA:

  • Apartment buildings with less than five units
  • Single-family housing sold without a real estate professional
  • Housing for religious organizations 
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Private clubs

Does the Fair Housing Amendment Act Cover All Protected Classes?

The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (1988) covers the seven protected classes

mentioned above. However, some states have extra fair housing laws that defend even more protected characteristics, including

  • Age
  • Citizenship
  • Occupation
  • Source of income
  • Marital status
  • Partnership status
  • Status as a veteran or military service member
  • Status as a domestic violence or stalking victim

If any of the above groups face housing discrimination, they must contact their state fair housing organization instead of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Because fair housing rights vary from state to state, real estate professionals must know both state and federal laws to ensure they aren’t violating any protected classes.

Violations of the FHAA Act

The following actions have always been violations under the Fair Housing Act of 1968:

  • Denying housing to minorities
  • Swaying minorities away from buying homes in white neighborhoods
  • Refusing to house tenants due to their skin color
  • Refusing to repair a tenant’s apartment because of their sexual orientation
  • Sexually harassing a female tenant
  • Dissuading Jewish homebuyers from buying homes in Christian neighborhoods
  • Denying housing to a tenant because they do not speak English

But thanks to the Fair Housing Amendment Act, other examples of fair housing violations now include

  • Renting out apartments that are inaccessible to tenants in wheelchairs
  • Denying housing to tenants with PTSD or other mental disorders
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities 
  • Owning an apartment building not up to code for accessibility
  • Restricting the sale or rental of housing to a pregnant woman
  • Prohibiting the sale or rental of housing to adopting parents

Who Enforces the Fair Housing Act?

So who can protected classes call when facing discrimination in the housing market? The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for enforcing the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and its amendments. 

This federal agency’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (HFEO) investigates housing discrimination claims to determine if housing laws are being violated. If they are, HUD will penalize the violators and uphold the Fair Housing Act. 

What Are the Penalties for Violating the Fair Housing Act?

Landlords and real estate professionals who violate the FHA and its amendments face serious repercussions. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, penalties include paying a $16,000 fine for one violation, $37,500 for two violations in five years, and $65,000 for three violations in seven years.

Violators who use force or the threat of force to discriminate against protected classes may even face time in prison. Examples of these more serious violations include

  • Verbal or written threats
  • Hate crimes
  • Vandalism
  • Assault and battery 

How the Civil Rights Movement Impacted Fair Housing Laws

We know that the Fair Housing Act led to the Amendments Act of 1988, but what events led to the 1968 act?

The civil rights movement began in the mid-50s and was a trailblazer for the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Laws like the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1966 prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex in public environments and courts.

We can see how these same protected classes are covered under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and expanded upon in the Fair Housing Amendment Act. Without the advancements made by these civil rights acts, housing discrimination would be an even more significant issue for protected classes than it is today. 

Why Housing Discrimination Still Exists

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to eliminate racial discrimination in the housing market, as many agents and landlords still violate fair housing laws. For example, studies from the HUD show that white renters receive more responses from housing providers than minorities.

This type of discrimination in housing can be challenging to catch and often goes unreported, leaving room for fair housing violators to fly under the radar. Let’s look at a recent example of housing discrimination to see what it looks like in practice. 

Fannie Mae Housing Discrimination Settlement

Fannie Mae advertises itself as a mortgage financing company that helps homeowners, homebuyers, and renters access affordable housing. However, the National Fair Housing Alliance and other fair housing organizations sued Fannie Mae for using discriminatory practices. For example, Fannie Mae primarily dedicated its time, resources, and marketing to white neighborhoods while letting Black and Latino communities deteriorate.

While this case led to a $53 million settlement in 2022, many fair housing activists feel that the Department of Housing and Urban Development must do more to enforce fair housing laws. The Fannie Mae case proves that housing discrimination is still a massive issue that prevents protected classes from finding affordable housing. 

How Can We End Housing Discrimination?

A perfect world may never be possible, but real estate professionals should take it upon themselves to uphold housing laws and combat discrimination in the market.

After you ace the real estate exam and start working in the industry, you must follow these tips to help end discrimination in housing:

  • Keep up to date with state and federal fair housing laws
  • Get ready to be put to the test at any time
  • Avoid working with companies who violate the Fair Housing Act
  • Use appropriate, inclusive language in your property listings
  • Treat all clients equally 

What to Know Before the Real Estate Exam

By now, you should be an expert on the Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988 and its influence on an equal opportunity housing market.

Designed to strengthen the original Fair Housing Act and combat discrimination in real estate, the FHAA is a significant act for real estate professionals to know and abide by. 

But your quest for knowledge can’t end here- brush up on more real estate terms with our Real Estate Flashcards to help ensure you pass the exam. Good luck!

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