As Realtors®, your real estate activities 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 know 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.
Check out a this document for Fair Housing Guidelines.
Who is protected by state and national 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 with 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.
Local Nondiscrimination Ordinances
According to information provided by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, these municipalities have local nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation as of August 19, 2019. This is not a comprehensive list and it is best to contact individual local municipalities to determine whether a nondiscrimination ordinance has been enacted.
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
333 Market Street, 8th floor | Harrisburg, PA 17126
Discrimination is illegal in PA. Get the facts about equal opportunity at www.phrc.pa.gov.