More and more community associations have asked me whether they can amend their governing documents (by following the amendment procedures set forth therein, of course) to prohibit rentals to Section 8 tenants. Section 8 tenants are tenants who obtain subsidies from the federal government under Section 8 of 42 U.S.C. § 1437f. These tenants seek and get low-income housing assistance under what is known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Federal law prohibits rental restrictions based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, age, and handicap. There is no federal law that prohibits a landlord to refuse to rent his or her house to a tenant based on income, including to Section 8 tenants.

North Carolina state law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. While some states prohibit restrictions on tenants based on their source of income, North Carolina is not one of them. (Interestingly, Matthews Municipal Ordinances has an ordinance that prohibits an owner from discriminating because of “status with regard to public assistance” in the terms of rental of a property).

So yes, communities can amend their documents to restrict Section 8 tenants. But should they? Many people feel that discrimination based on income should be illegal. Naturally, restrictions on Section 8 tenants may result in “bad-will” for the association. Most importantly, such restriction may lead to complaints claiming discrimination. While such complaints, under the current law, will most likely be dismissed, the possibility of triggering them should be a consideration of the community when deciding whether to amend.