Fair Housing… Let’s Be Mindful!
April 3, 2023
Mark Hutchins & Jereme Kleven
My Home Group
8360 E. Raintree Drive, Suite 120
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
As real estate professionals, licensed agents are required to comply with the Fair Housing Act (enacted as part of the 1968 Civil Rights Act). The Fair Housing Act protects individuals from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, applying for a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on (1) race; (2) color; (3) national origin; (4) religion; (5) sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation); (6) familial status and (7) disability. That seems simple enough, however at times it is far from simple. Here are some examples:
- Steering Is A Form Of Discrimination:
John, who is an Asian man, meets with a real estate broker to discuss purchasing a house for his family. When John names the neighborhood that he is interested in, the broker asks John if he is sure that his family will feel comfortable there. The broker tells John that she has a wonderful listing in another neighborhood where there are more “people like them.” When the broker takes John to see the house, John notices that the residents of the neighborhood appear to be mostly Asian. This is a Fair Housing Act violation.
- Advertisements Can Violate The Fair Housing Act:
Jane, a landlord, wants to lease her property, but because of concerns over noise and the like, Jane does not want to lease to a tenant with young children. Understanding that is a concern for Jane, her agent creates a listing that states that the landlord “prefers renting to tenants that do not have children.” Sounds innocuous enough, yet that single sentence is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
- Disability Includes Addiction:
A homeowner has a home in a community where the Homeowner’s Association only allows leasing for a “single-family unit.” The homeowner enters into a lease with a tenant that intends to use the home as a residence for recovering alcoholics who receive treatment at an out-patient facility. There will be four people who reside at the home at any given time, none of whom are related. The HOA refused to allow the lease because that would be a violation of the “single-family unit” requirement. That, however, is a Fair Housing Act violation. Persons recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction are disabled under the Fair Housing Act and therefore, protected from discrimination.
- Service Animals Must be Accommodated:
An assistance animal is an animal trained to work, provide assistance, or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or one that requires emotional support. An assistance animal is not a pet. Landlords cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodation for these animals when such accommodations may be necessary to afford the person with a disability the “opportunity to enjoy a dwelling.”
The foregoing demonstrates how easy it is to violate the Fair Housing Act. The next question is; what are the consequences if there is a violation? Civil penalties vary and depend upon the history of the individual who has engaged in the wrongful conduct. A violation of the Fair Housing Act can carry a $16,000 fine for the first infraction. However, a repeat offender can receive a penalty up to $65,000 and also seven years of jail time. This is serious stuff.
We have an educated real estate community and agents in our industry take great care to abide by all rules, laws and regulations. Additionally, best practice is to seek advice from your broker team, as they are dedicated to support you as an agent, as well as to supervise.
Please be mindful and diligent when it comes to Fair Housing. Ultimately, it is all about inclusiveness and respect when selling or leasing a home. That is the Golden Rule after all!