The month of April marks the anniversary of the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination in any situation involving housing. The Act was a follow up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1966, which prohibited discrimination but had no federal enforcement. For the real estate industry, April is Fair Housing Month, a month to learn and spread the knowlege.
The Fair Housing Act states that in concerns of housing, people may not be discriminated against on the basis of 7 things:
- national origin
- gender, as of 1974
- disability, as of 1988
- familial status, as of 1988
It is illegal to discriminate against anyone of these classes in the practice of:
- the sale or rental of housing or residential lots
- in advertising the sale or rental of housing
- in the financing of housing
- in the provision of real estate services
- in the appraisal of housing
- Blockbusting is also illegal
The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing. Violators of the Fair Housing Act can be fined an amount up to $11,000 for a first offense, up to $27,000 for second, and up to $55,000 for further violations, if found guilty in criminal court. Civil action may also be brought in Federal court with amounts of $50,0000 to $100,000.
What is Not Covered: The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some cases, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. Housing for seniors or active adults is not considered discriminating.
You can read more about Fair Housing Laws at HUD.gov. This is the Fair housing Logo:
What Fair Housing Means to Landlords
Landlords may not deny housing to people based on any of these protected statuses. They can’t set different terms based on a person’s status either. All tenants and potential tenants must be treated equally.
The Disabilities Act of 1990 has made an impact on many many industries, including real estate. A Landlord cannot refuse to let a tenant make reasonable accommodations for disabilities, although they can ask that the property be restored to original state when the tenant leaves. Similarly, they cannot refuse to make adjustments to policies and practices to accommodate tenants with disabilities.
Since 1991, there have been new requirements for new buildings of four or more units, like having an accessible way into and through the building, accessible lights and fixtures, grab bars and wide hallways and doorways to allow wheel chairs.
What Fair Housing Means to A REALTOR®
As Realtors® are often the connectors in the buying and selling of a home, they touch every aspect of the process. As agents in Maryland, we are held to a high standard, both by the (NAR) National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics, and by Laws codified by the Maryland Real Estate Commission, not to mention Federal Fair Housing Laws.
NAR has developed the Equal Professional Service Model, a set of policies and procedures designed to help agents provide the same level of service to all people they work with. The model helps agents create consistent practices. Agents serve their clients best when they gather objective information about people’s needs, let consumers set their own limits, and offer a variety of choices.
Personal thoughts: Like people in any industry, most real estate agents are good-hearted and awareness and education is the answer to unintended actions. For most agents, advertising is something to pay attention to. Advertisement of listings should be free of any terms that suggests any particular status of a buyer, or negates any particular status, which is at the heart of Steering.
Everyone needs a place to live and many people are able and ready to be homeowners…real estate professionals are in the business of helping make that happen. When you see the equal housing logo, you should expect the highest and best.
What if Your Rights Have Been Violated?
Violating Fair Housing Law is a Federal offense which carries heavy consequences. If you think your rights have been violated, HUD provides a Housing Discrimination Complaint Form for you to complete online, or you can download, complete and return, or telephone a HUD Office. You can file a complaint up to one year after the incident.