One of the most significant pieces of housing legislation ever passed was the Fair Housing Act. Additionally, many of the Civil Rights laws that were passed in the 1960's addressed the issue of housing. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from selecting tenants based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, sex or mental disability. Landlords are allowed to choose tenants based only on VALID criteria such as minimum income, references and other legitimate business reasons. Among the things that a landlord can't do are advertise in a manner that makes known a preference, deny a unit is available, create more restrictive standards, refuse to accommodate the needs of a disabled tenant, set different terms for certain tenants and terminate a tenancy for discriminatory reasons. If a landlord does commit any of these violations, the tenant has up to one year to file a complaint with the Secretary of Housing And Urban Development. In addition to these federal laws, most states have their own fair housing policies that might include laws prohibiting discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation. For more information about what practices are prohibited, contact a real estate lawyer in your area.