There is strong evidence that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals and their families are discriminated against in the housing and rental markets. But whether or not that type of discrimination is illegal depends on the specific circumstances and the state. And in most states, it's still legal.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes under the federal Fair Housing Act. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made it clear that it is illegal for landlords, rental owners, and property managers to do the following:
Outside of these limited circumstances, the federal Fair Housing Act alone offers no protection. So, for example, it does not prevent landlords from denying housing to lesbians, gay men, or bisexuals because of their sexual orientation.
Although the federal Fair Housing Act doesn't protect against discrimination in most circumstances, some state and local jurisdictions have enacted their own fair housing rules that do. As of this writing, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sixteen states and the District of Columbia ban housing discrimination based on gender identity.
In most states, counties, and cities, however, landlords can still discriminate. Where there is no fair housing protection against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, there isn't much LGBT individuals can do if they are denied the opportunity to apply for a rental. However, once a lease is signed, it can be terminated only for reasons specified in the lease agreement
Because state and local laws are subject to change and this is an area of expanding and evolving law, make sure you stay on top of the requirements in your jurisdiction. As a recommendation, avoid any potentially discriminatory practices when screening tenants to say out of trouble with the law. Also, be sure to check out our post, Are You Subject to Fair Housing Laws?, to understand if the laws apply to your rental property or not.
As always, the information provided here is for informational purposes only and under no circumstances whatsoever should it be considered legal advice. If you have any particular questions or issues, please consult an attorney.