While it is rather well-known that discriminating against a rental applicant based on their religion is illegal in the United States, many religious applicants still experience apprehension and, occasionally, discrimination. It is important that you know your rights as a tenant, and below are the answers to some common questions regarding religious discrimination and landlord rules in rental properties.
Can a landlord restrict your diet?
Many religions may require you to follow special dietary rules. You may be encouraged to eat certain foods and avoid others. Additionally, you may have yearly festivals or holidays that require you cook certain foods. Can a landlord prevent you from cooking and consuming these foods?
The most common example of this is a landlord that is seeking vegetarian tenants, even if the landlord does not live on the property. Providing an incentive for vegetarian tenants is not currently covered by the laws regarding discrimination. However, if your dietary habits are part of your religion, you may have a case against a landlord that only accepts tenants with different dietary habits.
It is also important to note that if restrictions on cooking and consuming food in the premises are not stated clearly in your lease, your landlord cannot demand that you follow certain restrictions later.
Are you allowed to display symbols of your religion?
A landlord may ask you to not display symbols of your religion on the exterior of your building for several reasons. However, unless you live in a community where the placement of any external housing decorations is forbidden, regardless of their meaning, then you are facing religious discrimination and may be able to take action against your landlord.
Should you tell your landlord about your religion before you sign a rental agreement?
A landlord is not allowed to ask you what your religion is before you move into a rental unit. Although you are free to share what religion you are, you are under no obligation to do so. You may consider asking if there are other people of your religion in the neighborhood. However, keep in mind that a landlord or rental agent is not supposed to deter renters of any religion, so they may decline to answer questions that would make them seem like they are trying to dissuade you from renting a home based on your religion.
One way to help ensure that you are not discriminated against is to rent from a well-established real estate agency that knows the laws and rules regarding discrimination and can show you a large number of houses for rent in your area.