ARE YOU BEING FAIR WITH FAIR HOUSING?
April is Fair Housing Month; however, there really should be no time stamp on this subject.
It is a topic that should be front and center of all real estate transactions and ancillary services at all times.
So what is Fair Housing?
Fair Housing is the right to live where one chooses with dignity and without fear of discrimination. It is a basic right guaranteed to all people.
The Fair Housing Act which came into being in 1968 stemming from the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and prohibits discrimination in housing based on membership in the following protected classes:
- Sex (gender)
- Marital Status
- National Origin (ethnicity, ancestry)
- Elderliness (55 years or older)
- Disability Familial Status (families with children under the age of 18)
- Sexual Orientation
Sexual orientation is bolded because it was added in specifically by Arlington County since each jurisdiction has the right to do just that. Fairfax County has not done that and so has nine (9) protected classes.The District of Columbia on the other hand has twelve (12) additional protected classes as under bringing their list to twenty-one (21).
Practitioners in the industry, therefore, need to be aware of the law in whatever jurisdictions they operate.
- Marital/Family Status
- Personal Appearance
- Place of Residence/Business
- Sexual Orientation
- Victim of Intra-family Offense (domestic violence)
- Family Responsibility
- Political Affiliation
- Source of Income
- Gender Identity
- or Expression Genetic Information
On the face of it, it seems simple enough that everyone should be free to live where ever they choose with dignity and without fear of being discriminated against or harassed. Yet, it is anything but, as day after day all across the nation there are instances of just that in as many forms.
Why did you deny access to the multiple listing service? What was the real reason that a loan was denied? Why are you placing conditions on some of your clients and not on others? Now might be a good time to streamline your processes to eliminate any such behaviors.
The purpose of this post is merely to ask that you stop and think and re-assess how you are conducting your business to ensure that you are truly treating each and every person the same way under the law. It is just not possible to go into detail in any meaningful way in a post such as this considering all the various aspects that the law covers in dealing with each individual protected class.
Consider, for instance, the scenario where a large investor approaches you to rent some of his properties ending with the caveat, “but I don’t want any......(fill in the blank) tenants”.
Are you on top of your game to lay down the law, educate him or her and be willing to walk away and make a report to the proper agency in your jurisdiction? In other words, it’s not good enough for you to be just on the right side doing the right thing. In order to enact real change, in moments like these you need to, you have an obligation to, seize upon the opportunity to inform and teach with the intent of truly helping to make Fair Housing fair housing.
You may also be interested in 2018 April Fair Housing Month