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Housing & Commercial Property Discrimination


For assistance filing a housing discrimination complaint, call toll-free, PA FAIR HOUSING HOTLINE,  855-866-5718.

The form at the link below is used to file complaints of illegal discrimination in housing & commercial property.  There is also a release form to complete if your complaint is related to a disability. If you have questions or are unsure of which form to fill out, please do not hesitate to call a PHRC Regional Office.

Forms for filing housing & commercial property discrimination complaints

Housing discrimination happens in the process of renting, buying, selling or getting a loan for a home.  It also includes discrimination that denies someone the use or enjoyment of their home.

Commercial property discrimination includes discrimination during the purchase, sale or lease of commercial property.  It also includes denying someone access to a commercial property on a discriminatory basis.

Who is protected? 

Discrimination in housing and commercial property is prohibited on the basis of race; color; sex; religion; national origin; ancestry; age (40 and over)*; pregnancy; familial status**; handicap or disability; the use of a guide or support animal due to blindness, deafness or physical disability or because the user is a handler or trainer of such animals; or the disability of an individual with whom the person is known to have a relationship or association.

*Housing for older persons can be provided under specific federal or state programs that are designed and operated to assist elderly persons. The criteria for this includes housing that is: 1) intended for and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or, 2) intended and operated for occupancy by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit.

Requirements used in determining whether housing qualifies as housing for older persons include, but are not limited to, the following, 1) at least 80 percent of the units are occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older, 2) there is publication of and adherence to policies and procedures which demonstrate an intent by the owner or manager to provide housing for persons 55 years of age or older, and 3) the housing complies with regulations declared by PHRC for verification of occupancy.

**Familial status is defined as families with children under 18.  Familial status is protected in housing, but not in other areas (employment, public accommodations, education).

What does Housing Discrimination Look Like?

Some examples of housing discrimination*: 
  • Refusing to rent to a family with children under 18
  • Refusing to rent or sell a home to someone of a particular race, religion or skin color
  • Targeting a particular group for unfavorable loan terms or deceptive lending practices (predatory lending)
  • A landlord or municipality refusing accessible parking or otherwise denying access to the housing accommodation of a person with a disability
  • Housing advertisements that express a preference for people of a certain race, sex or religion
  • Making references to the composition of the neighborhood in which a property is listed in order to discourage a home purchase
  • Treating one tenant less favorably* than others in the terms of their rental or in repairing or maintaining property
  • Harrassment* by a landlord based on race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, etc.

*Remember that to be illegal, such treatment must be based on characteristics listed above these examples.  If you have a question about what happened to you, call the PA Human Relations Commission office serving your county.

What does "accessible" mean? 

Accessible is defined in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act as "being in compliance with the applicable standards set forth in" the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Universal Accessibility Act.

What are the potential penalties for illegal discrimination in housing? 

Actual damages, including those caused by humiliation and embarrassment, may be awarded in housing and commercial property cases.   This varies from employment discrimination, in which damages include only direct monetary damages such as lost wages.

Civil penalties may also be assessed, depending on the respondent's record of discrimination.

Federal Housing Discrimination Laws

If you file a complaint with PHRC and your allegations are covered under federal laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), PHRC will file your complaint with HUD as well.   Only one agency will conduct the investigation.  However, federal law may afford you additional rights and remedies, which this dual-filing process protects. 

If, within one year after you file a complaint with PHRC, the complaint has not been resolved, or if the commission dismisses your complaint, you may bring action in a Court of Common Pleas.


For assistance filing a housing discrimination complaint, call toll-free, PA FAIR HOUSING HOTLINE,  855-866-5718.