Words from Mark Brnovich Arizona Attorney General
February 26, 2016 |
Arizona Attorney General
As Arizona’s Attorney General, I’m committed to fighting against discrimination, but I also recognize the importance of protecting our real estate community from frivolous lawsuits and unmerited claims. Education is the key to protecting yourself from a housing bias lawsuit.
Within my office, the Civil Rights Division enforces civil rights laws, increases public awareness of civil rights, provides dispute resolution services, and offers community services throughout the state. Among its duties, the Civil Rights Division enforces the Arizona Civil Rights Act (“ACRA”), which protects fair housing. Housing may not be denied because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. ACRA applies to sellers and the realtors who act on their behalf. Furthermore, ACRA prohibits advertising the sale or rental of a property with preferences or limitations regarding a person’s membership in one of these protected classes.
Many complaints to the Civil Rights Division relate to advertisements on the internet and social media platforms. My advice to real estate professionals? Choose your words and images carefully. Words, phrases, photographs, illustrations, symbols, or forms can subject a real estate agent to a discrimination claim. For example, an ad stating “no children” or “adults only” can trigger a complaint. Less explicit statements, such as a “perfect fit for a single man” or “not suitable for children” may be problematic. A person may also face complaints for explicitly stating a preference for or against race, gender, or other protected class.
A recommended practice is to articulate your commitment to fair housing, verbally and in writing, to potential residents. If your advertisements contain pictures, consider portraying a diverse group of residents. Free posters and other resources are available from the Arizona Attorney General’s web site at: https://www.azag.gov/fair-housing/resources-links-and-publications.
HUD also requires displaying a fair housing poster with the Equal Housing Opportunity logo at real estate offices (see 24 Code of Federal Regulations 100). The logo graphic is available online at:
Are there exceptions to the rule? Yes, Arizona law recognizes certain exceptions to the fair housing requirements for religious organizations, private clubs, the rental of a room where the owner resides, and housing in retirement communities. Furthermore, infrequent and private person-to-person sales or rentals by an owner with three or fewer properties may also be exempted. However, sales or rentals under this last exception are no longer “private” if advertised, or if a real estate agent is retained.
For the applicable statute, see Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.), Section 41-1491.15. If you have any questions after reviewing the statute, you may wish to consult your own attorney as you develop best practices to serve your clients, while protecting fair housing for all Arizonans.
Mark Brnovich was sworn into office as Arizona Attorney General in January 2015. He grew up in Phoenix and graduated from Arizona State University and the University of San Diego, School of Law. Brnovich previously served as the Director of the Arizona Department of Gaming. He is also a former state and federal prosecutor.