Reader Email: Refusal to Rent to an Undergraduate

The Email: Dear Off-Campus Student Living, I found a great apartment that I want to rent for next year. However, once I mentioned to the landlord that I am a undergraduate student, she refused to rent to me. Isn't this discrimination? Is there anything I can do about it?

Off-Campus Student Living's Response: Although this may seem unfair, it is not illegal. Landlords have the right to deny anyone from living in their unit(s) as long as it is not for a reason that would fall within the protected class category. Landlords can also charge higher rent rates for tenants as long as they have a legitimate business reason to do so. For example, a landlord cannot deny tenancy or charge a higher rent because of race (protected), but they can because of student status (not protected). This may not seem fair, but it is legal.

Federally protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial status, and physical or mental disability. Many states also include marital status, gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes. Being a student is not among these protected classes (society has not been historically prejudice against college students).

Think of it this way, if you were an ideal tenant - your credit is great, your job pays more than enough to cover rent, you are clean, neat, friendly, you don't have any pets and you are planning renting for at least 5 years - a landlord would love to rent to you. The landlord might even lower the rent to try to get you to be their tenant. On the flip side, a landlord doesn't want to rent to someone they think will be a "bad" tenant for whatever reason. The landlord might raise the rent, or downright refuse to rent to that applicant. As long as it is not because of one of these protected classes, it is okay.

If you have a landlord that is refusing to rent to you because you are a student, try to convince the landlord that you would be a good tenant. Offer co-signers to prove that you can pay the rent. You can also try to negotiate by offering to pay more in rent each month. In the end, keep in mind the apartment you are looking for now will not be your home forever. For further assistance or questions about discrimination, please contact the Boston Rental Housing Resource Center.

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