SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - ABC4 took action after getting a tip that some people were being discriminated against based on religion. Homeowners and landlords apparently discriminating against some renters based on religious preference. And in our investigation, we came across dozens of ads breaking the law by telling potential renters who was “welcome” to apply.
Stephanie Clemens thought her and her boyfriend would have no problem finding an apartment when they began their search a few months ago but now says she learned differently. “When we explained to the landlord we were unmarried he refused to rent to us,” Clemens said and continued, “he told us because we didn't live by LDS standards, and believed unmarried couples shouldn't live together.”
Clemens, an ABC 4 intern, was really having a hard time finding a place that would rent to her because of her religion. We took action to see if this was really a problem or an isolated incident, and we found 37 ads with "preferences" of religion.
When Clemens told landlords that she was not LDS, she would get responses like, “well, do you live LDS standards?” or “I’m not LDS [either], but I’m trying not to mix.”
Civil rights attorney Brian Barnard said, “Refusing to rent to a Mormon or allowing a Mormon to rent is clearly religious discrimination.” Barnard said that renters do have their rights, and they can file a complaint with the state. He also gave them another option, You can sue,” Barnard said, “and you should sue.”
Clemens did eventually find a place, but she ran into, what she said, was too much religious discrimination in the process.
This problem is not new to Utah though. In 1997, there was a lawsuit out of Hyrum where several renters in one apartment complex won a $30,000 lawsuit. The judge agreed with them, and declared they were evicted merely because they weren't Mormon.
If you feel you've been discriminated against in your quest for housing we have information for you on our ABC 4 home page in the Orange Box.