When You Apply for a Mortgage, Does the Law Protect You from Discrimination?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

Many people, especially people of color or people that fit into certain minorities, fear that they will not be treated fairly when they walk into a bank or a mortgage broker’s office looking to buy a house.  A long history of mortgage discrimination against people of color in this country is especially disconcerting for many individuals and couples looking to buy a home.  If you or a loved one was discriminated against, the law might have special protections to help you, but it may depend on the reason you were discriminated against and what specific acts of discrimination you faced.  Mortgage discrimination attorney Andrew Shubin of The Law Office of Andrew Shubin explains.

What Protections Does the United States Have Against Mortgage Discrimination?

One of the primary protections against mortgage discrimination is the Fair Housing Act.  This law, which is made up of Title VIII and IX of the Civil Rights Act, contains protects against discrimination when buying and selling a home, renting, or finding a mortgage.  When it comes down to mortgage protections specifically, the Fair Housing Act is quite broad in its protections.

Any sort of discrimination that plays into your ability to get a mortgage or get comparable terms to someone else in your situation could be considered discrimination.  For instance, if a mortgage lender or a bank automatically denies loans to black families without a credit check, that would be blatant discrimination.

Discrimination is illegal under the Fair Housing Act for a variety of conduct, including the following actions:

  • Denying a mortgage
  • Giving different rates or conditions
  • Appraising a home at a lower value to give a smaller mortgage loan
  • Refusing to give advertised rates or financing options
  • Making unfair assumptions about the applicant’s financial means based on perceptions about them
  • Refusing to discuss a mortgage or give information to the applicant

This law is a federal law, which means it applies throughout the country.  Other state and local protections might also help protect you against discrimination in ways these laws do not.

What Are the “Protected Classes” for Mortgage Lending Discrimination?

The Fair Housing Act, like most civil rights legislation, provides specific “protected classes” that it is illegal to discriminate against.  More accurately, the law provides a list of features and traits about a person which are illegal to use as the basis for different treatment.  Under the Fair Housing Act, those protected classes are as follows:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Disability

There are many cases in this area of the law and cases dealing with other civil rights legislation and civil rights violations that break down what some of these features and protected classes specifically apply to, but the law is constantly being expanded.  For instance, protections against “sex” discrimination might also apply more broadly to cover discrimination against people based on issues of gender, gender identity, gender presentation, and sexual orientation.  Similarly, protections for sex and marital status could also help protect same-sex couples – married or unmarried – from discrimination.

Protections against discrimination based on race and religion also protect people from discrimination based on assumptions about these categories.  That means that even if you are not actually the race or religion that the mortgage lender assumes you are, any discrimination against you based on their assumptions about you is still illegal.  Some of these issues are still being tested in the courts and in other ways, but our attorneys will fight to help you seek justice if you were discriminated against in any way that could be protected under the law.

These are the only protected classes explicitly named in the Fair Housing Act, but state law often has increased protections for some classes.  That means that, while the U.S. as a whole might not have protections against discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or other factors, some states do have these protections.

Remedies for Discrimination in Mortgage Applications

If you do face discrimination, our attorneys can help you seek justice under the Fair Housing Act and other laws.  In many cases, the remedies available to you can work to reverse the effects of discrimination and get you compensation for any issues you faced.  In some cases, this can include financial compensation for money you lost because of discriminatory terms or conditions, the loan funds you were unfairly denied, damages for humiliation or embarrassment, and other compensation.

In cases where a bank or mortgage lender is especially negligent, there might be room for you to claim punitive damages as well.  These damages are ordered against parties who have especially egregious practices, widespread discrimination, or intentional systems to discriminate against certain peoples.  These additional damages are not available in every case, but our attorneys can work to get you these additional payments whenever available.

In some cases, you might not think that what happened to you was “bad enough” to warrant any damages, but even a difference of a few percentage points on a mortgage rate can end up costing you a lot of money.  Talk to an attorney about what damages you may be entitled to in a mortgage discrimination claim.

Call Our Mortgage Loan Discrimination Lawyers for a Free Case Consultation

If you and your family faced discrimination when applying for a mortgage, contact The Law Office of Andrew Shubin today.  Our civil rights lawyers fight to get compensation and other damages for victims of housing and mortgage discrimination, and we may be able to fight to help you in your case.  Call our office today at (814) 826-3586 to set up a free, confidential case consultation.