There are a number of protections for you as a buyer in today’s real estate market. Some of the benefits are financial, some are psychological, and some are just plain common sense. Fair Housing laws are some of the most common sense laws that sadly had to be established and even more sadly have to be enforced even today. Fair Housing laws make it unlawful to refuse to sell to, rent to, or negotiate with a member of a protected class. In the buying and selling of property, as with all other aspects of a modern society, you should always be treated as equal with everyone else: especially those you may be competing with for a certain property.
Of course Fair Housing laws reach much further than just inside of the actual real estate transaction. They protect people in protected classes from lending, insurance, zoning, and advertising that is unfair. For example, if a home goes on the market that is in the proximity to a synagogue, the seller cannot advertise that home just to members of the synagogue. If fliers are dropped off at the synagogue, they must also be distributed to area recreation centers, other religious buildings, and anyone else who asks. This form of a violation of Fair Housing laws is known as steering. It is targeting advertising to a certain group of people because the seller or agent thinks that is who should live in that area.
Lenders are also not free from the confines of Fair Housing laws. The amount a lending institution will give you for the purchase of a home cannot be contingent on anything other than your financial standing. They can look at all of your documentation and determine if you are a good candidate, but they cannot look at the color of your skin or any community organizations you may participate in and make a determination. Politicians, by virtue of their power to create school zones and housing zones, may also not make their decisions based on anything other than physical boundaries.
Protected classes of people include the physically handicapped, LGBTQ community, members of certain races, and members of certain religious affiliations. If, for any reason, you feel that as a member of any of these protected classes you have been discriminated against, take action immediately. Contact HUD and make sure to give them a full account of the situation. These laws came out in the 1960s, but have never been more important than they are today.