Fair housing laws ensure everyone achieves the American dream
By Skumanick, Kim | April 4, 2014 | 3 min. read
April marks National Fair Housing month. At Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® (PAR), we have dedicated 2014 as the Year of Fair Housing. Why do we believe it’s important?
Because the American dream of owning a home isn’t limited to some people. It’s a dream that brings many people to our country. They dream of owning property, which may not be possible in their land of origin. Fair housing laws help ensure that purchasing a home can be a goal that everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin, can hope to achieve.
As Realtors®, we’re not only bound by national and state fair housing laws, but by the National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics. When we become Realtors®, we agree to be held to a higher standard. Article 10 of the Code of Ethics provides that “Realtors® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
We need to ensure that home sellers and landlords don’t discriminate in the sale, advertising, rental or financing of a property based on any protected classes. Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot establish discriminatory terms or conditions in the purchase or rental; deny that housing is available or advertise that the property is only available to certain groups of people.
Realtors® also need to ensure that home buyers have housing made available to them without discrimination or other limitations. Oftentimes, Realtors® inadvertently violate the fair housing laws by trying to be helpful. Ultimately, you should make sure you understand what your client can afford and what their basic needs are. It’s really not about what you, as the Realtor®, think. Just because you don’t think they would want to live somewhere, doesn’t mean you should share your opinion.
Realtors® are a resource for their clients but they should also be able to direct their clients to other places to gain information. If they want to know about schools, you should refer them to an online resource that evaluates schools or encourage them to contact the school directly.
It’s also important to have procedures in place that are followed for every client, whether you know him or not. If your office procedure dictates you ask clients for their driver’s license as identification, you need to do that with everyone. If you treat one person differently, there is an appearance that someone is getting preferential treatment and you aren’t following the letter of the law.
For more information and examples about fair housing, please refer to PAR’s Fair Housing Guidelines.
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