P. O. Box 66180, Baltimore, Maryland 21239



Westminster, Maryland 21157


Copyright, 2005





Unlawful Housing Acts. Exemptions from the Law. Commonly-Asked Questions.


Options. Filing with the State of Maryland. Filing with HUD.


Definition of "Disability. Overview of the Relevant Laws. Prohibited Discriminatory Actions.

Requirements for New Buildings. Commonly-Asked Questions.


Affordable Housing. Homeless Services. General Resources.



Unlawful Housing Acts

Title 14, Subtitle 03, Chapter 4 (14.03.04) of the Code of Maryland Regulations prohibits housing discrimination in the State based on: Color, Race, Sex, Age, National Origin, Marital Status, Religion, Mental Disability, Physical Disability, and Familial Status.

Specifically, it is against the law to:
(1) Refuse to sell or rent a dwelling after a bona fide offer is made.
(2) Make any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on the above classes.
(3) Tell a person that a dwelling is not available when it is in fact available.
(4) Impose different sales prices or rental charges for a dwelling.
(5) Use different qualification criteria, applications, standards, or procedures - such as income standards, application requirements, credit analysis, or approval procedures.
(6) Deny or limit services or facilities.
(7) Have different terms, conditions, or privileges, relating to dwelling sale or rental.
(8) Fail to or delay to process an offer for dwelling sale or rental.

(9) Discourage or obstruct housing choice by community, neighborhood, or development.
(10) Assign a person to a particular section of a community, neighborhood, or development - or to a particular floor of a building.

Exemptions from the Law

These types of housing are exempt from the Fair Housing Law:

• Rooms/units in owner-occupied dwellings for five or fewer families living independently.
• Rental or sale of a single-family home by an owner who does not own more than three houses, who has not sold a house within one year, and who has not used a broker or agent to rent the house.
• Housing that is specifically operated for persons of one religious organization.
• Rooms in any dwelling if the owner uses this as his/her principal residence.

Commonly-asked Questions about the Law

Does the Law Cover Condominiums? Yes.

Does the Law apply to buildings built with Federal funds?
Yes. The Act prohibits housing discrimination in both public and private housing, regardless of whether the housing provider used Federal funds.

Can a landlord ask about the usage of birth control devices?



A person who feels that they are a victim of housing discrimination may file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (MCCR) or with the U. S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). A person simultaneously may file a complaint with the State and with HUD.

Steps in Maryland’s Discrimination Complaint Process

The first step in filing a housing discrimination complaint is to contact the MCCR. Someone who feels that s/he is the victim of housing discrimination (called the "Complainant") may either telephone or write the MCCR within one year of the incident. The MCCR's telephone numbers are: 800-637-6247 or 410-767-8600, and its offices are located at 6 St. Paul Street, 9th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. The TDD number is 410-333-1737. Upon contact, the MCCR staffer will set up an appointment with the Complainant to obtain more information about the complaint.

Investigating the Complaint

As soon as MCCR obtains all the information about the incident from the Complainant, it contacts and gets relevant information from the person who is the subject of the complaint (called the "Respondent"). The MCCR makes this fact-finding process as quickly as possible. This process is quickened if the situation demands immediate action (e.g., the Complainant is subject to immediate threat or harm). The MCHR will inform the Complainant and the Respondent in writing of its decision of whether discrimination has occurred, and it then will enforce corrective remedies.

Legal Penalties and Remedies

The MCCR can order a Respondent to make a financial payment and/or many other actions to remedy a proven discrimination problem. For example, it can issue a temporary restraining order to keep a housing unit on the market in certain circumstances. The MCCR's administrative penalties can be very costly to the person or company adjudged to be guilty of housing discrimination: (1) $10,000 fine, if the person/company has committed one prior discriminatory practice. (2) $25,000 fine, if the person/company has committed one prior discriminatory practice within the past 5 years. (3) $50,000 fine, if the person/company has committed two or more practices within the past 7 years. The MCCR also can negotiate other remedies as agreed between its legal counsel, the Complainant, and the Respondent; these may include actual damages and "equitable relief" in addition to the monetary fine.

It is Against the Law to Retaliate

The State of Maryland is committed to ensuring that a person who makes a complaint or who supports a complaint by another not be the victim of retaliation. It is illegal to retaliate against a Complainant or someone who aids that person. The State, therefore, will prosecute immediately such action if it does occur.

It is Against the Law to Intimidate

It also is illegal to threaten or intimidate someone who has filed a discrimination complaint. For example, it is illegal to: (1) Threaten an employee with dismissal because of filing a complaint. (2) Intimidate or threaten someone who has won a discrimination complaint. (3) Harass someone who has assisted another in filing a discrimination complaint. For example, it is illegal to threaten someone with bodily harm who has filed a discrimination complaint. Harassing that person, by swearing and physical threats, is against the law.

Filing a Complaint with HUD

The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also ready to help with housing discrimination. The Federal bases for Fair Housing complaints are less than those of the State. The federal Act forbids housing discrimination on the basis of: Race, Color, National Origin, Religion, Sex, Familial Status, Physical Disability, or Mental Disability.

HUD's complaint process is similar to that of the State. You can:

· Write HUD a letter to: Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, S. W., Room 5204,
Washington, D. C. 20410-2000.

· Telephone the Maryland HUD Office during regular business workdays (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) at 410-962-2520.

· Telephone HUD's toll-free hot-line: 800-669-9777.

Appropriate assistance also is available for persons with disabilities. A complaint should be filed as soon as possible, but within one year of its occurrence.

For persons with disabilities, HUD also provides: (1) TDD line for hearing-impaired: 410-962-0106. (2) Toll-free TDD line: 800-927-9275. (3) Interpreters; Tapes and Braille materials. (4) Assistance in reading and completing forms.


Definition of “Disability”

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. Section 794) and the Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988 by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (42 U.S.C. Section 3601 et. seq.) define an individual with disabilities (or handicaps) as: "Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment."

These conditions are considered as disabilities under the Law: Cerebral palsy, Autism, Epilepsy, Muscular dystrophy, Multiple sclerosis, Cancer, Heart disease, Diabetes, Alcoholism, Mental retardation, Emotional illness, Drug addiction, Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection, Orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments.

Overview of the Relevant Laws

Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4151)
This Act provides for the removal of architectural barriers from all Federally constructed, leased, or financed buildings.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794)
The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination, in Federally assisted and conducted programs, against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities. Section 504 - and HUD's regulations - provide for complaint procedures regarding housing discrimination on the basis of disability. Complaint treatment parallels that for other (e.g., racial) discriminatory allegations.

Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 3601)
This Act significantly revised and expanded Fair Housing rights. See below for listing of discriminatory actions.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
This Federal Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in private sector employment, all public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications. For more information, please contact the Maryland Commission on Human Relations Commission (800-637-6247).

Prohibited Discriminatory Actions

(a) To refuse to permit, at the request of a person with disabilities, reasonable modifications if necessary to allow this person full usage of the dwelling.

(b) To construct a new housing complex that does not include accessible structure and design standards.

(c) To refuse to make reasonable accommodation in rules, policies, services, or practices, when necessary to allow a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing. Some examples are: (1) A building with a "no pets" policy must allow a visually-impaired tenant to keep a guide dog. (2) An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near his/her apartment, if necessary to assure that he/she can have access to the apartment.

Requirements for New Buildings

In buildings that were ready for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, and have an elevator and four or more units: (1) Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities. (2) Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs.
(3) All units must have: An accessible route through the unit; Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other environmental controls; Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars; and Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

If a building with 4 or more housing units has no elevator and had first occupancy after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units only. These requirements do not replace more stringent standards in Maryland or Worcester County law. Housing need not be made available to a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or who currently uses illegal drugs.

Commonly-Asked Questions

What must a housing provider consider to assure that housing is provided is integrated?
The housing for persons with disabilities must not be separate or unnecessarily segregated. Accessible units in single buildings should be located throughout the building, and not just on the first floor. In projects with multiple buildings, accessible units should be located throughout these buildings, rather than in just one or two buildings. Persons with mental disabilities should not be segregated in any one wing, floor, or building.

Does the Law apply to building built without Federal funds?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination in both public and private housing, regardless of whether or not the housing provider receives Federal funds.

What about communication with persons with disabilities?
A housing provider must have an effective way to communicate with all tenants and applicants who have disabilities: Telephone: TDD or a fax machine, Alternate site for applicants if not accessible, and Application forms and other information in simplified language and utilize pictures or diagrams.

What is the Law regarding the cost of housing modifications?
The Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers allow tenants with disabilities to make modifications, at the tenant's expense, when such modifications are necessary. The provider is required to cover the cost to make existing units accessible when a project is viewed in its entirety.

What about information given during the application process?
A housing provider may indicate the availability of accessible units, and ask all applicants if they wish to be considered for such units. If the person indicates this, he/she can be asked to explain and document why the accessibility features are required - even if to answer these questions may involve revealing information about a physical or mental disability (24 CFR. Sec. 8.27).

Can a provider make the ability to live independently a term or
condition of tenancy?
No. Instead, the provider must rely on the tenant's ability to meet the standard obligations of tenancy (e.g., maintaining the unit) to determine if the tenant can continue to reside in that unit.

When can a housing provider evict a person with disabilities who damages his/her unit and/or disturbs tenants?
The general rule is that a person with disabilities can be held to the same standards of behavior as those to which a non-disabled person is held. Reasonable accommodation sometimes may require that a landlord make an accommodation in the rule.


Greater Baltimore C. H. R. B.

Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
800-637-6247 / 410-767-8600 / fax 410-333-1841 / TDD 410-333-1737
6 St. Paul Street, 9th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21202



• A prospective buyer should receive counseling from a housing counseling agency.
• It is recommended that a Realtor® be utilized for buying. Contact the Carroll County Association of Realtors: 410-876-3530 / http://www.carrollcountyrealtors.net/.
• A house inspection by a licensed housing inspector should be done as part of the housing purchase agreement.


Carroll County Housing & Community Development Bureau
10 Distillery Drive, Westminster 21157

Interfaith Housing Alliance
731 North Frederick Street, Frederick 21701
301-662-4225 / http://www.interfaithhousing.org/


First Call for Help
Statewide free 24-hour Hot Line. Referrals & information.
410-685-0525 / 800-492-0618 / TTY 410-685-2159

Homeless Persons Representation Project
Legal assistance to clients in homeless shelters.
300 Cathedral Street, Baltimore 21201


The IMAGE Center
Services & assistance for people with disabilities.
300 E. Joppa Road, Towson, Maryland 21286

Governor’s Office for Individuals with Disabilities
Referral services, information.
1 Market Center, Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Maryland RELAY - 711
Assistance for persons with a hearing/speech disability.


American Civil Liberties Union
Civil rights cases.
3600 Clipper Mill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21211
410-889-8555 / http://www.aclu-md.org/

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. - Tenant-Landlord Counseling.

Greater Baltimore C. H. R. B.
Free Fair Housing brochures, self-help guides, posters.

Legal Aid Bureau
Free legal assistance to income-eligible persons.
22 S. Market Street, Frederick 21701
410-694-7414 / 800-679-8813

Maryland Legal Line
To hear audio tapes on legal aspects of various subjects.

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
Free legal assistance.