The Relationship Between Military Status and Fair Housing Laws

Get acquainted with the fair housing rights and protections afforded to military members, veterans, and their families nationwide. This deep dive covers the federal Fair Housing Act and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, plus other regulations protecting against housing discrimination based on military status.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
May 7, 2024
The Relationship Between Military Status and Fair Housing Laws

With the U.S. military aiming for 1,283,700 active service members in 2024 and millions more veterans, military members, both past and present, make up a sizable portion of the buying and renting population. While federal fair housing laws protect against discrimination based on race, religion, and disability, military status is not directly covered, leaving active-duty servicemembers, reservists, and veterans vulnerable unfair treatment when trying to rent or buy a home.

Exploring fair housing, this article uncovers the protections for military members. With frequent moves and deployments, it's crucial for soldiers to know their rights when looking for homes. From what landlords must do to ensure fairness to how servicemembers are safeguarded by specific laws, we'll break down how to keep the buying and renting process fair and compliant for everyone involved.

What constitutes housing discrimination?

Housing discrimination occurs when individuals or families are treated differently in their attempts to rent, buy, finance, or live in a home based on certain characteristics that are not relevant to their qualifications as tenants or buyers. This can include being denied housing, offered different terms or conditions than other renters or buyers, or given false information about housing availability.

Laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels aim to prevent housing discrimination so that all individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.

The Fair Housing Act

Congress created the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to prevent housing discrimination. Under this fair housing law, it is illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or financing of property based on a person's inclusion in protected categories. These categories include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Familial status

Who is covered by the FHA?

The FHA covers nearly all housing transactions in the United States. This includes private housing, housing that receives federal funding, and state/local government housing.

It is applicable to most housing situations, including renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.

Specifically, the act applies to:

  • Homeowners selling or renting their property.
  • Real estate agents and housing providers such as landlords, property managers, and housing associations.
  • Mortgage lenders, including banks and other financial institutions.
  • State and local government agencies involved in housing and financing home purchases.

Specific protections for military personnel

While the federal Fair Housing Act does not explicitly list military status as a protected class, various state laws and local ordinances aim to fill this gap. These state and local provisions prohibit housing discrimination against individuals based on their status as active duty members of the armed forces, military reservists, or veterans.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

Federal laws such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offer additional protections. While these are not directly under the FHA, they complement its purpose. They provide specific rights and benefits in housing matters to servicemembers. These include protections against eviction and other housing benefits tailored to accommodate the unique aspects of military life.

Military status and other protected categories

Military personnel often belong to multiple protected classes under the FHA. For example, a disabled veteran has protections under both the disability and, depending on state law, military status categories. This overlap can compound the challenges faced by military families, making comprehensive protections critically important.

Familial status is another category that frequently intersects with military status. Military families often move or face deployment, which can lead to housing instability. The FHA protects such families from discrimination that could arise from landlords who might prefer not to deal with tenants who have less stable living arrangements due to military obligations.

Tenant rights for military personnel and veterans

Military families benefit from a range of housing protections designed to prevent discrimination and reduce the stress of relocations and deployments.

The right to terminate a lease early

Military tenants have rights that allow them to terminate their housing leases early without penalty. This right is crucial for those who receive deployment orders or are assigned a permanent change of station (PCS). It allows servicemembers to adapt quickly to their operational duties without being financially burdened by a lease they can no longer fulfill.

Protections against eviction

Servicemembers have protections against eviction under certain circumstances. This provision makes sure that military personnel are not displaced from their homes while actively serving, which is especially important if they're unable to meet rental obligations due to service-related duties.

The law generally requires that landlords obtain a court order before evicting active-duty military tenants, particularly if the rent falls below a specified threshold.

Priority housing

Certain states and localities provide priority or subsidized housing opportunities tailored to military personnel and veterans, recognizing their distinctive challenges.

Non-discrimination in housing applications

Military personnel cannot be denied housing based on the instability of their income due to military service or any disabilities acquired during service.

Reasonable accommodations

The rights of military tenants include receiving reasonable accommodations for disabilities incurred during their service. Landlords must permit reasonable modifications, provided they do not impose undue hardship on the housing provider. This ensures that disabled veterans and active-duty servicemembers can live comfortably in their rented homes.

Landlords' obligations in providing fair housing

Landlords have specific legal obligations when renting to military tenants. These include honoring the rights of military personnel to terminate leases early under qualifying conditions such as deployment or a permanent change of station.

Landlords must also understand the legal framework that requires a court order for evictions when the tenant is an active-duty servicemember, confirming compliance with both federal and applicable state laws.

Handling lease terminations for military service members

Landlords must handle lease terminations initiated by active military tenants with care and in accordance with the law. This includes:

  • Prompt lease termination processing: When military tenants present official orders, landlords must promptly process any requests to terminate the lease early per applicable laws.
  • Timely security deposit returns: Landlords must return security deposits to military tenants terminating leases in a timely manner, complying with state rental laws.
  • Disability accommodations for service disabilities: Landlords have a legal duty to provide reasonable accommodation for military tenants with service-related disabilities.

How to address housing discrimination as a military member

If you have a veteran or military status and believe you've experienced housing discrimination, there are specific steps you should follow to address the issue effectively:

  1. Document the incident: Gather all related information and documents regarding the alleged discrimination. This includes any communications with housing providers, such as emails or letters, notes from conversations, and any actions that you believe were discriminatory.
  2. File a complaint with HUD: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles fair housing complaints. You can file your fair housing complaint online, by mail, or by phone. When filing, you'll need to provide details about the incident and any evidence you have collected.
  3. Seek assistance from military legal services: Most military installations offer free legal assistance through their legal service offices. These offices can provide guidance specific to the military community and help you understand your rights under both federal and state laws.
  4. Contact local or state fair housing agencies: Many states and localities have their own agencies that enforce fair housing laws. These agencies can be a valuable resource and may have the authority to investigate and enforce actions against discrimination.
  5. Consult with civil rights organizations: Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) can offer guidance and support. They may also provide legal representation or refer you to a lawyer who can help.
  6. Consider legal action: If you cannot resolve your case through administrative complaints, consider filing a lawsuit. Legal counsel can advise you on the merits of your case for both veteran and military status.

Maintaining fair housing practices

While federal fair housing laws may not specifically mention military status as a protected class, they do provide protections for service members who belong to other covered categories. Complementary laws like the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act reinforce fair housing principles with provisions created for the realities of military life.

Military tenants have specific rights regarding ending leases early, safeguards against eviction, and reasonable modification for service-related disabilities. Landlords also have legal responsibilities when renting to military members, and they must appropriately address requests and situations specific to this tenant group.

Raising awareness allows for more equitable treatment overall. With frequent relocations and deployments, the ability to access fair, stable housing remains a top priority for military servicemembers moving forward.

Are veterans protected under fair housing? FAQs

What are examples of military status?

Examples of military status include active duty, reserve, National Guard, veteran, and retired service members.

Is the military a federally protected class?

No, military status is not a federally protected class under the Fair Housing Act. However, some states and local jurisdictions have laws that provide protections against discrimination based on military status.

Are veterans considered a protected class?

Veterans are not considered a protected class under the federal Fair Housing Act. However, some state and local laws do include veterans as a protected class, offering them specific anti-discrimination protections. Also, if a veteran has a disability, they are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act's disability category.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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