Fair Housing Laws, Regulations and Ordinances

Realtors’® are governed by fair housing laws, regulations and ordinances at the federal, state and local levels, as well as by the Realtor® Code of Ethics. It’s important to understand the various sets of rules and how to structure your practice to ensure that you’re following the rules at all times. Realtors® and brokers may act with the best of intentions without realizing that their actions and words may be misinterpreted by consumers.

Realtors®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics, Article 10: 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. Realtors® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. (Amended 1/14)
  • National Fair Housing Act, established in 1968, protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance or engaging in other housing-related activities. Additional protections apply to federally assisted housing.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the public.
  • Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination in all housing transactions including but not limited to sales, rental, finance, providing reasonable accommodations or modifications to housing or commercial properties based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, age (over 40 in housing), ancestry and pregnancy.
  • Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination and investigates housing discrimination complaints on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD.

Fair Housing Resources

NAR Fair Housing Resources

  • Fairhaven – This fair housing simulation is an innovative online training where agents work against the clock to sell homes in the fictional town of Fairhaven, while confronting discrimination in the homebuying process.
  • Fair Housing Action Plan – NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan (ACT Initiative) emphasizes (A)ccountability, (C)ulture Change and (T)raining in order to ensure America’s 1.4 million Realtors® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America.
  • Fair Housing Declaration – Review, download and print the Fair Housing Declaration to post in your office or association.
  • Implicit Bias Training – Confront and overcome unconscious biases that can prevent equal professional service in this online workshop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who’s protected by state and federal Fair Housing laws?

  • State and national Fair Housing Laws prohibit discrimination against any person based on: age, ancestry, color, disability, familial status, national origin, race, religion, sex, use of service or support animal. Many municipalities have identified additional protected classes by local ordinance, including but not limited to sexual orientation, gender identity and source of income.
  • For Realtors®, the National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethic goes beyond federal and state law, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

What is required when talking to clients in person versus the telephone or online?

  • Brokers should have policies in place regarding how prospective buyers are treated, whether they inquire in person, over the telephone or online. The policy should include questions of courtesy, initial information given, explanations of the firm’s policies and procedures, returning telephone calls, follow-through, etc. This ensures equal treatment of all prospective clients and the utmost customer service.
  • Example: An African-American client arrives in the real estate office and is asked to wait in the lobby. A second client arrives and is immediately escorted to a Realtor’s® office. While it may appear the clients are not receiving equal service, the situation could be addressed by explaining to the first client, “We have several scheduled appointments this morning but if you would like to wait, one of our Realtors® should be able to meet with you.” When the second client arrives, the receptionist could say, “You’re right on time for your appointment. Your Realtor® is waiting for you in her office.”

Who should be pre-qualified?

  • You should be financially qualifying all prospective buyers before discussing properties and ensuring that the same requirements are applied to all clients.

What questions can I ask when talking to a prospective client?

  • It’s helpful to have a standard form to assure that similar questions be asked of all prospects. Questions should be related to the type of real estate sought, features desired, locational preferences and their financial profile.
  • Example: In his first meeting with an Asian buyer, Realtor® A asks about the buyer’s expected budget and preferred neighborhoods. In his first meeting with a Hispanic buyer, he starts by showing them inexpensive townhomes. By not asking the same sorts of questions, Realtor® A has created a possible issue of discrimination.