April is Fair Housing Month, and 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act being signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. REALTORS® and consumers alike are responsible for making sure that housing advertising neither markets toward nor discriminates against the protected classes. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to violate the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in housing advertising, due to inaccurate interpretation or definition of the protected classes or a lack of awareness of what and whom the Fair Housing Act protects. Essentially, there just isn’t ample emphasis put on the importance of Fair Housing.
The Fair Housing Act, to date, includes seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
It’s also essential to note that the REALTOR® Code of Ethics protects two additional classes, in addition to the FHA protected classes — sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Fair Housing Act and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics prohibit marketing to or discriminating against the protected classes, even at a client’s request. It’s not just REALTORS® who need to be aware of the FHA and whom it protects; consumers and homebuyers and -sellers need to know, as well.
The last protected class in the list — familial status — often needs to be properly defined, as it is the most commonly misinterpreted. According to the Fair Housing Act, “This last term [familial status] refers to the presence of at least one child under 18 years old, and also protects prospects and tenants who are pregnant or in the process of adopting a child.” Note that the federally protected classes under FHA do not protect people based on whether they’re married or single unless they meet the criteria defined above: “the presence of at least one child under 18 years old [and] prospects and tenants who are pregnant or in the process of adopting a child.”
So what should you, as a home buyer or seller know about Fair Housing as you embark on buying or selling a home?
- Hire a REALTOR® to assist you with the home buying or – selling process – trust in the professionalism and ethics that a REALTOR® brings to the transaction.
- Ask your REALTOR® what can and cannot be said in the marketing of your home and how your REALTOR®’s marketing strategy will get your home in front of the most possible buyers without violating the Fair Housing Act
- Discuss with your REALTOR® how you can find a home in the type of neighborhood you want, near the amenities that are important to you, without violating the Fair Housing Act.
- And finally, if you feel you have been discriminated against, know the process for filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
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