I Rent A Room In A Owner–Occupied Home. I Am Being Discriminated Against Because Of My Religion. What Can I Do? Q&A

Q.  I am renting out a room in a single-family residence. The owner lives there as well with her two children. There are no other boarders. The other day, I shared with the owner that I am a practicing Muslim. The owner’s reaction was mostly non-verbal to what I had shared with her, but I could clearly tell she was disturbed by what I had told her.

About a week later she made some rude comment about the Muslim faith and told me that Muslims invaded our country on 9-11 and that she did not understand how a faith could be so hateful. One month later, the owner said she was raising my rent for financial reasons and that if I could not pay the new rent, I would have to vacate. I feel I am being discriminated against. Do I have legal recourse?

A.  That depends. The general rule has been that an owner of a dwelling is the master of his or her domain and that so long as the discrimination occurred in the owners dwelling, the matter was considered a private affair, not a public concern and therefore not actionable under the law.

Over the past few years, due mostly to hard economic times, many renters have been unable to afford an apartment of their own and must instead find cheaper rent by renting a room in another persons home. The law, recognizing the potential for abuse under such conditions, enacted laws to protect tenants from discrimination in shared boarding situations.

The general rule in many jurisdictions is that the owner of a single-family home may not discriminate against a boarder, unless you happen to be the only boarder in the home. Stated another way, if the homeowner is making a business out of boarding by having more then one boarder, the owner will be subject to the same laws prohibiting discrimination as any other landlord. This includes discriminating against a tenant because of age, race, religion, marital status, sexual orientation or medical condition.

Since you are the only boarder in the home, it is unlikely that you will be able to make a discrimination claim against the owner. The owner’s two children would probably not qualify as boarders within the context of these types of laws.

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