Human Relations Commission
The Prince George's County Code directs the efforts of County government in eliminating discriminatory practices in housing, employment, public accommodations, education, financing, law enforcement, and other facets of life. Following is a summary of the provisions relating to housing.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-185
Topics on this page:
- Human Relations Commission purpose
- Prohibited acts relating to housing
- Influencing a transfer of property
- Real estate signs
- Prohibited statements
- Spousal income requirements
- Coercion, threats, or interference
"Discrimination" means acting, failing to act, or unduly delaying an action regarding any person because of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age (except as required by state or federal law), occupation, familial status (families with children), marital status, political opinion, personal appearance, sexual orientation, or physical or mental handicap, in such a way that the person is adversely affected.
"Familial status" means one or more persons under the age of 18 years living with a parent or other person who has legal custody of the minor, or the designee of the parent or other person (with written permission). This protection also applies to a person who is pregnant or is in the process of getting legal custody of a minor.
"Housing" means a dwelling for the use of one or more individuals, groups or families, any mobile home site, and any land offered for sale or lease for the construction of housing.
"Occupation" means the principal lawful activity of one's life. Persons protected under this category include students, welfare recipients, retired persons, physically or mentally handicapped persons, and persons irrespective of income.
"Personal appearance" means outward appearance irrespective of sex, with regard to hairstyle, beard, or manner of dress.
"Physical or mental handicap" means an impairment which substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities, or a record of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. It includes a mental impairment such as retardation or other condition which may have necessitated remedial or special education and related services. It does not include current illegal use of or addiction to a controlled dangerous substance as defined by state law.
"Political opinion" means opinion relating to government or the conduct of government, or relating to political parties authorized to participate in primary elections in Maryland.
"Sexual orientation" means a person's preference or practice as to homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality, or being regarded or identified as having such a preference.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-186
Human Relations Commission purpose
The Commission is a 13-member body appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. The term of office is 3 years. Commission members should be broadly representative of the citizens of the County. The Commission must meet at least once each month, and must submit an annual report to the County Executive and the Council by October 1 of each year. The executive director of the Commission is appointed by the County Executive.
The Commission has broad powers to survey, study, hold investigatory hearings, and "promote in every way possible the betterment of human relations". Its enforcement powers include the power to administer oaths, issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents at formal hearings, issue cease and desist orders, order affirmative actions, and award monetary relief, including damages for humiliation and embarrassment up to $200,000.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-193 to 195.01
A determination by the Commission that this law has been violated is a conclusive finding. Compliance with an order of the Commission may be enforced by the Circuit Court, and an appeal of a final decision of the Commission may be made to the Circuit Court.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-197
Complaints of housing discrimination must be filed with the Commission within 360 days after the alleged act of discrimination. The Commission must then begin its investigation within 30 days, and must complete the investigation within 100 days after receipt of the complaint, if possible. Final administrative disposition must be made within one year after receipt of the complaint, unless it is impracticable to do so.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-201
If after investigation there is reasonable cause to believe that the law has been violated, the Executive Director of the Commission will try to conciliate the parties. The Executive Director may not dismiss a housing discrimination complaint because of the complainant's failure to accept a conciliation agreement, even a reasonable agreement. Also, a conciliation agreement relating to housing discrimination must be made public unless both complainant and respondent agree otherwise and the Executive Director determines that disclosure is not needed to further the purposes of the Human Relations law.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-203
If the conciliation effort fails, a formal public hearing will be held before either the full Commission or a panel of Commissioners. Until the public hearing is held, Commission proceedings are confidential, except that information may be released at any time if both complainant and respondent so agree in writing; and the identity of the complainant must be disclosed to the respondent if the respondent requests it.
Prohibited acts relating to housing
Whether acting for monetary gain or not, a person must not do any of the following to any person because of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, occupation, marital status, political opinion, personal appearance, sexual orientation, physical or mental handicap, or familial status (families with children):
- Refuse to sell, lease, sublease, or otherwise transfer, and must not refuse to negotiate for the sale, lease, sublease, or other transfer of any interest in housing;
- Make or indicate that housing is not available for inspection, sale, lease, sublease, or other transfer when in fact it is available; or
- Otherwise make housing unavailable, deny, or withhold any housing. A person must not:
- Discriminate in denying or restricting access to or membership or participation in a multiple listing service, real estate brokers' organization, or other service, organization or facility related to selling or renting dwellings;
- Discriminate in the terms, conditions, or privileges of a sale, lease, sublease, or other transfer of housing;
- Discriminate in furnishing facilities, repairs, improvements, or services or in the terms or conditions of occupancy;
- Print, publish, or cause to be printed or published a statement, advertisement, etc., announce a policy, or use a form of application that indicates a discriminatory preference or limitation;
- Induce or try to induce a person to sell or lease housing by making discriminatory statements about the entry or prospective entry of other persons into the neighborhood;
- Discriminate in a sale or rental, or in any way make housing unavailable because of a handicap of the buyer or renter, of a person living in or intending to live in the dwelling after it is sold or rented, or of any person associated with the buyer or renter. This prohibition includes a refusal to make reasonable accommodation in rules, practices, or services, and a refusal to permit reasonable modification of the premises to be occupied by the handicapped person, except that in the case of rental, the landlord may require the renter to agree to restore the interior to the pre-modification condition, reasonable wear and tear excepted.
The provisions in this law prohibiting discrimination against the handicapped to not require that a dwelling be made available to a person whose tenancy would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of others or whose tenancy would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-210
Discrimination that would otherwise be unlawful is permitted with regard to leasing rooms or apartments in an owner-occupied dwelling consisting of not more than 3 rental units. However, the printing and publishing provisions of the law do apply to this housing.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-210(c)
Discrimination based on age or familial status is permitted for housing operated in connection with a retirement or senior citizen home or housing. The age and familial status provisions also do not apply to housing provided under a federal or state program specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons, to housing intended for and occupied solely by persons 62 years of age or older, or to housing intended and operated for occupancy by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit, provided that certain federal regulations are complied with.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-210(b)
A religious organization or a nonprofit organization operated or controlled by a religious organization may limit or give preference to persons of the same religion in the sale, rental, or occupancy of dwellings which it owns or operates, unless membership in the religion is restricted on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, occupation, marital status, political opinion, personal appearance, sexual orientation, physical or mental handicap, or familial status.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-210(e)
Lending institutions must not discriminate in lending money, guaranteeing loans, accepting mortgages or deeds of trust, or any other way of making funds available for the purchase, construction, repair, maintenance, etc., of housing. A lending institution may base its actions on a person's income and financial ability.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-211
Influencing a transfer of property
A person must not directly or indirectly induce another person to acquire or transfer an interest in housing by any statement about the existence or proximity of property which is or may be owned, rented, or occupied by a person in a protected category. The law similarly prohibits making false, reckless, or intentionally misleading statements about a change in personal circumstances relating to a protected attribute of a resident of a neighborhood for the purpose of obtaining a property listing.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-212 to 213
Real estate signs
For sale or for rent signs or similar devices must not be used if the property is in fact not being offered as advertised.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-215
In the case of housing which has been sold or rented, the sign may be left in place for a maximum of 14 days after the execution of a contract or other written agreement of sale or rental.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-216
The following is prohibited: to induce directly or indirectly, for profit, a sale or listing for sale of housing by means of an oral or written statement that the presence or anticipated occupancy or ownership of property by a person in one of the protected categories may result in:
- A reduction in property values;
- A future change (relating to any of the protected classes) in the composition of the residents of a neighborhood;
- An increase in criminal or other antisocial behavior in the neighborhood where the property is located; and
- A decline in the quality of schools, churches, businesses, etc., in the neighborhood.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-217
No one may solicit the sale or purchase of single-family dwellings unless the solicitation consists only of random, isolated inquiries and is not a systematic solicitation covering a substantial section of a neighborhood.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-218
"Solicitation" is defined as: inviting or inducing, for monetary gain, by means of going uninvited onto the property of the person to be solicited; contacting the person by telephone, telegraph, or messenger without having been requested to do so; or distributing handbills or other advertisements on private property or private vehicles without having been requested by the owner of the property or the vehicle.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-186
An owner who, because of a prohibited solicitation or statement, was induced to sell a dwelling may file a civil action in Circuit Court against the real estate dealer or broker or their agents or employees or agents who committed the act. The legal action must be filed no later than one year after the date of the sale. If judgment is in favor of the plaintiff, the court will award damages, reasonable attorney's fees and court costs.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-219
Spousal income requirements
When a landlord seeks to determine whether a married couple meets income requirements, landlord must consider the income of both spouses.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-219.01
Coercion, threats, or interference
It is unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a person who is enjoying or has enjoyed any right protected by the Human Relations law, or because that person has encouraged or helped another person in the enjoyment of these rights.
Read the law: Prince George’s County Code, Subtitle 2 §2-209