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Fairness in Housing

All Minnesotans have a legal right to fair and unbiased access to safe, adequate housing. Fairness in housing is protected by both the Minnesota Human Rights Act and by federal law.

In general, it is illegal to treat a renter or buyer differently because of his or her race, gender, color, religion, familial status (having children), receipt of public assistance, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, national origin, or creed.

For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a person because of race or religion, or charge them a higher rent, or refuse to make repairs to their apartment if the same repairs are made for other tenants. Similarly, a seller cannot refuse to sell a house to someone because of their race, ethnicity, or gender, or charge them a higher price.

Parents cannot be refused an apartment simply because they have children. An exception is made for buildings of four or fewer units in which the landlord also lives. (Another exception is made for buildings in which 80 percent of the units house the elderly.)

A landlord cannot refuse to rent to someone based on gender unless the landlord is renting out a room in their own home. In this case, the landlord can specify whether they prefer to rent to a man or woman.

Landlords are prohibited from harassing tenants because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. A landlord also has responsibilities if one of their tenants is being harassed by other tenants. Because all Minnesotans are entitled to a safe housing environment (including one free from harassment), the landlord must try to stop the harassing behavior if the landlord is notified of it.

Disabled tenants are also protected by human rights law. The disabled must be provided with a handicapped parking spot, for example. A disabled tenant also has the right to make "reasonable modifications" to their apartment to give them full use of it. For example, a deaf tenant might install a flashing light doorbell in place of an audible bell. The disabled tenant must pay for the changes himself and return the apartment to its previous condition when he moves out.

Anyone who has questions about fairness in housing is urged to contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights at 800-657-3704 or 651-296-5663, the City of Morris HRA at 320-589-3141, or the Stevens County HRA at 320-589-7416.

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