April is Fair Housing Month. We know that complying with national, state and local fair housing laws begins from the moment a potential client calls or visits your office. Have you considered whether your entire staff is adequately trained to understand fair housing laws?
For example, if a potential client with a Hispanic accent calls your office, does the receptionist automatically put the call through to a Spanish-speaking agent? That could be considered a fair housing violation. If, however, the consumer calls and asks if your office has an agent who speaks Spanish, then it’s appropriate to refer the client to a Spanish-speaking agent.
Often, Realtors® try to anticipate what their clients want. And that can lead to trouble.
When our clients ask if a house is located in the “best” school district or is “safe,” we have to be cautious when we answer their questions. The definition of a “good” school district or a “safe” neighborhood varies according to what individual clients want or need. That’s why it’s best to encourage them to do some research online so they can set their own parameters regarding schools, neighborhood demographics, safety, etc.
The National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics holds us as Realtors® to a higher standard than does the federal Fair Housing Act or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission’s (PHRC) Fair Housing laws. Fair housing laws at the national, state and local levels ensure that everyone has access to buy, sell, rent or mortgage a home, without regard to their age, ancestry, color, disabilities, familial status, national origin, race, religion or sex. Our Code of Ethics has gone beyond the federal, state and many local laws, to provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, many municipalities have also passed fair housing ordinances which include protection for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) consumers. You’ll find a list of those municipalities on PAR’s website.
PAR recently updated its Fair Housing Guidelines, which serve as a resource for real estate offices. Please take some time to review these guidelines.
Ultimately, our mission is to help everyone achieve the American dream of homeownership.