Getting your first apartment should be a fun experience. Sure, it might be a little nerve-racking and in today’s competitive market you’ll definitely have to see a few places before landing on the right one. Still, at the end of it all, you get to finally move out of your parents’ house and have your own space.
Unfortunately, that’s not everyone’s experience. For those in marginalized communities that frequently experience discrimination, finding friendly housing can be a huge hurdle to get over. The LGBTQ+ community is among those who often deal with this housing insecurity.
Tips for Finding LGBTQ+-Friendly Renting Options
Finding equitable housing options as a member of the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be difficult, but it can be. To help lessen the burden, here are a few steps that can help you weed out the hostile housing options out there.
Know Your Rights
While discrimination cases can end differently depending on the state you live in, there are a few protections out there that can help LGBTQ+ renters. Knowing these rights ahead of time may not help you secure an apartment any faster, but it can help you get the justice you deserve.
One example of these protections is the Fair Housing Act. This act is meant to protect people from discrimination when renting a home, buying a home, or seeking out housing assistance. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The Supreme Court ruled, on June 15, 2020, that discrimination based on sex includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
In total, 22 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Nine other states interpret their laws to include protections against this discrimination but don’t explicitly protect it.
Keep Your Safety at the Front of Your Mind
For anyone searching for an apartment, but especially LGBTQ+ individuals, you need to keep your safety in mind. Step no. 1: avoid Craigslist if possible. For every ad that’s legit, there are a dozen that aren’t.
When you set up viewings, bring your partner or a friend with you so someone knows your whereabouts. And, if at any point either of you thinks the situation you’re in is sketchy, don’t waste your time, just leave.
Finally, don’t reveal any personal information until you’re sure of the landlord and you know it’s safe to do so. Unfortunately, this might also include your gender identity or sexuality. Landlords are not allowed to ask for information like this, and until you get a feel for how safe the renting situation is, proceed with caution.
Search for Housing on LGBTQ+ Classifieds and by Using Terms Like “Queer-Friendly”
There are a number of different platforms that do allow you to search for housing based on how queer-friendly the neighborhood or landlord is. For example, on Facebook there are many, often private, groups where people can advertise housing for the LGBTQ+ community.
The “Queer Exchange Maine” Facebook group is my local group that I’ve used in the past. Most, if not all, states likely have one of these groups.
Additionally, on many rental sites, there’s a place for you to add a keyword or search terms. When you search for terms like “queer-friendly housing” and “LGBTQ+-friendly” you can find some hits, especially if you’re in a major city.
Be Transparent with Potential Roommates
No, you don’t have to out yourself to every potential roommate that you meet. That said, when meeting people you could share a home with, it’s important to ensure that you’re on the same page. After all, this will be your home, so anyone else living there should be comfortable with who you are and vice versa.
If you’re unsure whether or not a potential roommate is open to having queer roommates, try asking questions like, “Is this apartment LGBTQ-friendly?” Also, make sure to ask how they feel about you having overnight guests.
Get Renters Insurance
No, renters insurance won’t cover you if you’re met with discrimination from your landlord. But, because LGBTQ+ renters have a lot of other financial concerns to deal with, having renters insurance offers some peace of mind.
Renters insurance can protect you financially in the case that your property or apartment is maliciously damaged because of your identity. You’ll also be covered for more common reasons, like if you need to find temporary housing in the event that your apartment becomes unlivable.
Read more: Best Renters Insurance Companies
Why LGBTQ+ People Have a Hard Time Finding Equitable Housing
Many LGBTQ+ individuals already understand why renting can be difficult, having experienced housing insecurity at an alarmingly high rate. There are a number of reasons the LGBTQ+ community can’t secure the housing they so desperately need, including:
Higher Rates of Homelessness
It’s not just LGBTQ+ adults that struggle to find a place to rent. Unfortunately, youths who are homeless are often part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Studies find that between 20% and 45% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. This housing insecurity tends to arise from a lack of family and parental support, so LGBTQ+ young people are either kicked out or leave, feeling they can’t find the acceptance they need at home.
Unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ community is no stranger to discrimination. Studies have shown that landlords tend to respond less often to rental inquiries from same-sex couples. In some cases, LGBTQ+ couples are also charged higher rent than cishet couples.
Older LGBTQ+ individuals also are at a higher risk of having their rental applications denied or being charged more for assisted living care.
Housing is Expensive
Housing is at an all-time high. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying or renting, you’re likely having to deal with hiked rental prices. Coupled with these rising housing costs, the LGBTQ+ community also faces a wage gap that contributes to their difficulty in affording housing.
In general, the LGBTQ+ community makes $0.90 for every dollar the “average” worker makes. This divide grows, however, depending on your exact identity. Black LGBTQ+ workers make just $0.80 for every dollar average workers make, while Native Americans who identify as LGBTQ+ make just $0.70 for every dollar. Battling this wage gap can make finding safe accommodations difficult.
Federal and State Laws
Out of 50 states, only 22 have strict laws against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. In more conservative areas of the country, there’s limited protection, which in part contributes to the homelessness problem faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
How Landlords Can Help LGBTQ+ People Find Housing
Every landlord should be an ally for all communities. To provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ renters, landlords should:
- State clearly that the apartment or home you are renting out is LGBTQ+-friendly. This can make potential renters feel more at ease when contacting you about your rental.
- Be a respectful landlord. Being an open and accepting landlord can help you maintain a positive relationship with all your tenants, including any LGBTQ+ residents. Take steps to be supportive. For example, have a space on your application where tenants can write down their pronouns, and then use those pronouns.
- Call out discriminatory housing practices whenever possible. Landlords, especially those in large cities, can make a city-wide impact when they speak out against unfair housing. If you know of other landlords who have been discriminating against LGBTQ+ renters, report them.
What to Do if You’ve Been Discriminated Against
If you’ve experienced rental discrimination because of your LGBTQ+ identity, there are some steps you can take to ensure the landlord or property manager can’t discriminate against others.
- If you feel safe, speak with the landlord or property manager. If there’s someone you can contact who you know will be receptive, let them know about the incident of discrimination. Some landlords don’t know the full views of their property managers and wouldn’t be very happy to find out they’re actively discriminating against LGBTQ+ renters.
- Contact your local housing authority office. If you think you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can also contact your local housing authority. Not sure where your local office is? Find it here.
- Speak with an attorney. Even after you’ve filed a formal complaint, consider consulting an attorney who can help you figure out what the next best steps are. Working with a legal professional may not be financially feasible for everyone, but some states have law firms dedicated to providing help to low-income individuals. You can find potential resources on the American Bar Association’s website.
The LGBTQ+ community is among one of the many marginalized communities that experience housing insecurity. As such, before you go into your housing search, make sure you understand your rights, keep safety top of mind, search specifically for queer-friendly rentals, and be transparent with potential roommates. You still may, unfortunately, be met with discrimination, but there are options for you to take action, whether that’s speaking with the property manager, filing a complaint with the HUD, or even speaking with an attorney.
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