For more information on how our community is doing in carrying out fair housing practices, check out the City’s Assessment of Fair Housing webpage.
Equal and free access to housing choice is fundamental to meeting essential needs and pursuing personal, educational, employment or other goals. If you believe you have been discriminated against, there are several organizations that can help you file and investigate a complaint.
Fair Housing Laws
Because housing choice is so essential, the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and its amendments protect people from housing discrimination because of their: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status (having children or being pregnant). In addition Washington State Fair Housing laws also covers: marital status (being single, married or divorced); sexual orientation; gender identity and military / veteran status.
Together, we refer to all of these groups as “protected classes.” Housing practices should not discriminate against or negatively affect these state and federal protected classes.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, there are several organizations that can help you file and investigate a complaint.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regional office: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp
- Fair Housing Center of Washington: https://fhcwashington.org/ or (253) 274-9523
- City of Bellingham, Community Development Division: If you are unsure you have been discriminated against or need help finding the right resources, please contact Lisa Manos at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 778-8391
Victims of domestic violence
On February 9, 2011, HUD issued a memorandum with clear guidance that “domestic violence survivors who are denied housing, evicted or deprived of assistance based on the violence in their homes may have a cause of action for sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act”. Furthermore, the federal Violence Against Women Act provides that being a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault cannot be the basis of a lease violation or eviction.
Reasonable accommodations for a disability
If you have a disability, you also have the right to make reasonable modifications to your living environment at your own expense (for example, installing ramps or handrails) or request reasonable accommodations (for example, an assigned parking space or lower mailbox). The accommodation must be directly related to your disability. A landlord’s refusal to allow reasonable accommodations or modifications can count as a form of housing discrimination.
Washington State law also protects people from retaliation in the event they do file a fair housing complaint. It is unlawful to harass, intimidate or punish someone who files a housing discrimination complaint or participates in an investigation. But don’t wait: complaints must be made within one year of the violation! Contact the Washington State Human Rights Commission for more information (toll free at 1.800.233.3247).
- Planning & Community Development Department
- Bellingham Consolidated Plan
- 2018-2022 Assessment of Fair Housing (PDF)
- Fair Housing Center of WA Interview
- Service Animal Sample Policy