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Fair Housing: Staying Within the Law

Each April, REALTORS® celebrate Fair Housing Month to commemorate the law, which was passed in 1968 and amended in 1988.

By Graham Wood

Some behaviors might not strike consumers or real estate professionals as clear-cut violations of the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status. But HUD’s discrimination studies have found these common—yet often overlooked—infractions that you should be attuned to. Here are ways to avoid overstepping the law:

  • If you ask clients to obtain a prequalification letter from a lender before showing them homes, apply that standard to everyone. Even if clients promise they have the ability to purchase, don’t give them a pass, or a case could be made that you offer differing levels of service. Whatever processes you use for one client, use for all.
  • Don’t write listing copy that makes a judgment about the type of buyer who would be most interested in the home. For example, saying a home is “perfect for joggers” could be seen as excluding people with certain disabilities. Describe the property as being located “next to a jogging trail” rather than the person it would appeal to.

Let the clients bring up whether they want to live near certain amenities, such as houses of worship, cultural institutions, or playgrounds. Making the suggestion yourself could be considered “steering” clients toward certain neighborhoods—a definite violation.


NAR provideds a Fair Housing Tool Kit available
to all REALTORS®. Download your kit at
 http://realtormag.realtor.org/tool-kit/fair-housing


Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org. Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine, March 2016, with permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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