What Is Marital Status Discrimination?

Marital status refers to whether or not someone is married, in a domestic partnership, single, divorced, or separated. It is illegal for property owners, managers, real estate brokers, home sellers, mortgage companies and banks to treat people differently because of their marital status. This means that housing providers must treat roommates or unmarried couples the same as married couples. Banks and mortgage companies, for example, cannot refuse to lend money to a couple because they have chosen to enter into a domestic partnership instead of a marriage.

Marital Status in Rental Housing

Marital status discrimination often occurs in rental housing, as property owners and managers often feel that a married couple is more stable that an unmarried couple or a group of roommates. A housing provider cannot prefer a married couple, or impose different criteria based on marital status. If a landlord normally places both spouses on a lease, then all roommates in a single household should also be placed on the lease. If a landlord requires a married couple to earn a combined three times the rent, then the landlord must apply this policy equally to a group of roommates. That is, roommates may only be required to earn a combined three times the rent.

Divorcing couples also must be treated the same as unmarried groups of persons should one of the spouses move from the property. A housing provider must treat the remaining spouse the same as the remaining roommates.

What Does Marital Status Discrimination Look Like?

Marital status discrimination includes the following:

  • Being told that it is against the religion of the housing provider to rent to unmarried couples
  • A bank denying access to a home loan because you are unmarried or divorcing
  • A housing provider evicting a tenant because she has separated from her husband
  • Holding roommates to different standards than couples
  • A real estate agent declining to show a single person homes in a neighborhood full of families
  • Advertisements stating a preference for a couple