By Scott Bloom, owner and property manager, Columbia Property Management
Housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression is illegal in the District of Columbia. This means that housing providers cannot refuse to rent to someone or treat them differently in their housing-related decisions because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
But what might housing discrimination against LGBTQ+ home seekers look like?
Discriminatory treatment can occur at a number of stages in the home rental or purchase process including; when scheduling rental (or sales) showings, during a tour of the property or during the application or post-application process.
But discrimination may also occur while you are living in a rental home. Today’s discrimination may not be as blatant as an outright rejection or a snide remark about a protected category. There have been incidents of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression discrimination cited in rental housing disputes and lawsuits.
Some of these include landlords refusing to rent or renew leases to LGBTQ+ tenants; harassment of LGBTQ+ tenants by landlords or from other tenants; imposing different rental terms and conditions; failing to provide necessary repairs or maintenance to a rental unit where LGBTQ+ individuals reside (while other non-LGBT tenants receive prompt service); as well as failing to take action against other parties who engage in discriminatory behavior towards the LGBTQ+ tenants.
But there is good news.
Housing industry leaders are actively working to eliminate these instances of discrimination in housing. Both at the national level through the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and at the local level through the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) association leaders are working with real estate professionals such as licensed sales agents, brokers and property managers to improve understanding and sensitivity. Their overall promotion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) includes a substantial component surrounding sexual orientation and gender expression.
Christine Barnhart, Vice President of Strategic Communications at GCAAR told us, “We are doing our part to identify opportunities for diversity and inclusion conversation and education, and to promote the practice of inclusion and equity among our leadership, members, staff and within the industry.” GCAAR seeks to drive a larger conversation around DEI In addition to their “DEI Champions” program, providing a summary of their larger DEI initiatives can be found on their website.
That education of the key industry players is being delivered through a variety of initiatives and updates to codes and policies. Barnhart points out that the programmatic elements of the training being done keep their members up to date, “GCCAR’s ‘DEI Champions’ program features three key diversity training elements:
- “Completion of the six-hour “At Home With Diversity” (AHWD) certification course.
- The National Association of Realtors (NAR) “Fairhaven fair housing simulation,” and
- NAR’s Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing video.”
I took this certification course and found it very helpful. My original inspiration to become a GCAAR DEI Champion was to augment my service to the community. Now having been through the course, I’m better enabled to “put myself into others’ shoes.” I gained a stronger awareness of how each of us possesses inherent biases. And the program made me more authentically aware of the impact of my comments, my decisions, and my actions on others.
Similarly, the District of Columbia provides ethical codes and regulations for housing providers here in the city to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. For example, D.C.’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) has implemented guidelines and training programs for landlords and property owners to ensure they are aware of their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.
These regulations, industry guidelines, ethic codes, and best practices all help to make the D.C. rental housing market more inclusive and welcoming than other jurisdictions for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression,. However, if you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination, there are many agencies to turn to.
Equal Rights Center – a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate
unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in Greater Washington, D.C. and nationwide.
D.C. Office of Human Rights – The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the D.C. Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against.
Whitman-Walker Health – A non-profit organization that provides legal services, including assistance with housing discrimination cases, to the LGBTQ+ community in D.C.
National Center for Transgender Equality – A national advocacy organization that works to advance the rights of transgender people, including those experiencing discrimination in housing.
The DC Trans Coalition – A community-based organization that works to advance the rights and well-being of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the District of Columbia.
Pride Center of the Capitol Region – A community center that offers a variety of resources and support for the LGBTQ+ community in D.C., including assistance with housing discrimination cases.
As a gay-owned business and long-term member of the Equality Chamber of Commerce, it is important to me that all who interact with me and my companies feel welcomed and taken care of, particularly the LGBTQ+ community. Building on the foundation of the DEI courses, our firm will work to educate our staff and reinforce a culture of understanding and acceptance. How about yours?
*This article was written with the assistance of AI technology, and the final version was fully edited by Scott Bloom.
Scott Bloom, Owner and Senior Property Manager,
Columbia Property Management
Bloom founded Columbia Property Management in 2012. CPM’s goal is to provide a powerful, personal level of service to our clients. We focus on smaller landlords, professionally managing their assets, so they can succeed by investing in rental real estate.
Scott is an active member in multiple professional organizations including the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) and serves on the property management committee of Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS® (GCAAR).
For more information and resources, go to www.ColumbiaPM.com