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Fair Lending

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) protect consumers by prohibiting unfair and discriminatory practices.


The FHA prohibits discrimination in residential real estate–related transactions based on

  • race or color.
  • national origin.
  • religion.
  • sex.
  • familial status.
  • handicap.

The ECOA prohibits discrimination in credit transactions based on

  • race or color.
  • national origin.
  • religion.
  • sex.
  • marital status.
  • age.*
  • applicant's receipt of income from a public assistance program.
  • applicant's exercise, in good faith, of any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

*Age is a prohibited factor provided the applicant has the capacity to enter into a contract.

Disparate Impact

When a bank applies a facially neutral policy or practice to all credit applicants, but the policy or practice disproportionately excludes or burdens certain persons on a prohibited basis under FHA and/or ECOA, the policy or practice is described as having a disparate impact or discriminatory effect.  A policy that results in a disparate impact on a prohibited basis and is not legally justified violates fair lending laws and regulations. Evidence of discriminatory intent is not necessary to establish that a bank’s adoption or implementation of a policy or practice that has a disparate impact violates ECOA or the FH Act.

Disparate Treatment

Disparate treatment occurs when a lender treats a credit applicant differently based on one of the prohibited bases under FHA and/or ECOA. It does not require any showing that the treatment was motivated by prejudice or a conscious intention to discriminate against a person beyond the difference in treatment itself.  It is considered by courts to be intentional discrimination because no credible, nondiscriminatory reason explains the difference in treatment on a prohibited basis.

Related News and Issuances

06/17/2024 OCC 2024-15 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act: FFIEC’s 2024 'A Guide to HMDA Reporting: Getting It Right!'
04/04/2024 NR 2024-38 Acting Comptroller Discusses Elevating Fairness in Banking
04/26/2023 NR 2023-41 OCC Issues Guidance on Overdraft Protection Programs