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.

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)

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 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.

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, familiar status, disability, age (over 40 in housing), ancestry and pregnancy.

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.

Find an Interpreter

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.


Multicultural real estate organizations:

AREAA: Asian Real Estate Association – strives to promote sustainable homeownership opportunities in Asian American communities.

NAHREP – National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals – dedicated to advancing sustainable Hispanic homeownership.

NAREB – National Association of Real Estate Brokers - works to implement programs, events and solutions that are all geared to fight the low homeownership numbers in Black America.

            Local chapters:

            Central Pennsylvania Association of Realtist

            Philadelphia Metropolitan Board of Realtist

National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals – works to increase homeownership in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community as it relates to housing and discrimination laws.


National Association of Realtors® resources:

Fairhaven: A Fair Housing Simulation – an innovative online simulation 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 Declaration

NAR’s Implicit Bias Training – helping members avoid implicit bias in their daily business interactions.

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.


Diversity Committee resource recommendations:

American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass by Douglas S. Massey

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Attallah Shabazz Malcolm X

The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America by Lawrence T. Brown

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated American by Richard Rothstein

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho


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
(717) 787-4410

Discrimination is illegal in PA. Get the facts about equal opportunity at www.phrc.pa.gov.

News Updates About Fair Housing

Be an LGBTQ+ Ally in the Real Estate World

A recent Gallup poll showed that the 5.6% of Americans are LGBTQ+, up from 4.5% in 2017.

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Best of the Legal Hotline: What Pennsylvania Realtors® Are Asking About Fair Housing

“Do not be blindly following customers instructions,” said Desiree Brougher, a PAR attorney. “As a license, you are held to a higher standard of knowledge and behavior. Your job is to educate your clients and sometimes other Realtors® on fair housing laws. If your client is not willing to follow fair housing laws, it is OK to drop them.”

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Fair Housing: Are You Unconsciously Steering Clients?

“If an agent is treating one person better than another similarly situated person, and the difference between them is one of the seven categories in the Fair Housing Act, the agent has violated the law,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Bill Dedman in a webinar with Pennsylvania Realtors®.

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Little mixed race preschool kids enjoying singing songs in kitchen.
Fair Housing Complaints Remain Steady, PHRC Reports

“Fair housing complaints have been steady,” said Adrian Garcia, PHRC’s director of fair housing and commercial property division. “With the pandemic, you might have thought there would have been a slowdown, but our regional offices are reporting that complaints have been steady.”

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HUD to Enforce Fair Housing Act to Prohibit Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

“NAR has long championed LGBTQ rights in the housing market, first calling for expanded protections in 2011,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler. “There are few greater human needs than housing, and to exclude LGBTQ individuals from the protections afforded to other Americans is cruel. This is a just and historic decision by HUD.”

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NAR Launches Fair Housing Simulation

Recently launched by the National Association of Realtors®, Fairhaven is a fictitious town in which you will be put to the test virtually while encountering discrimination throughout various real estate scenarios. 

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HUD Issues Fair Housing Guidance Relating to Assistance Animals

Guidance clarifying how housing providers can comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing a person’s request to have an assistance animal because of a disability was issued this week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Clients and discrimination

It’s not preachy to tell your client that discrimination in housing is unlawful and subjects them to substantial adverse consequences. Remind him that your own participation in such a practice is unlawful and therefore you will not promote that practice.

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NAR Legislative Meetings highlight key Realtor® issues

Pennsylvania Realtors® met with about 16 members of Congress and/or their staffs last week to outline some of NAR’s priority issues.

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Honoring Fair Housing Month

Each April, we honor National Fair Housing Month in an effort to continue to work toward ending discrimination in housing across the country.

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