How to Spot Real Estate Discrimination
How to Spot Real Estate Discrimination, Most real estate brokers will put in a lot of effort to assist you in finding the house of your dreams. But there are some things that, for good reason, your agent simply cannot handle for you.
When it comes to displaying, selling, and purchasing real estate in a way that is fair to all parties. Real estate brokers are governed by laws like the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The Fair Housing Act establishes restrictions to stop unfair or discriminatory activities and holds real estate brokers accountable for fair.
And ethical standards of behavior in how they market and sell homes. Some agents might attempt to violate some of these guidelines. Either because they don’t comprehend, are unaware of, or don’t concur with them. But none of these is an excuse.
When you’re working with a real estate agent, there are a few things you should be aware of to make sure that they’re following the rules and dealing with you fairly. You should also understand how the Fair Housing Act works on a broader level. So you know what to expect in your real estate venture. And so that you stay within legal bounds.
Rules That Apply to Real Estate Agents
Your real estate agent must abide by several governmental, regulatory, and ethical organizations even if they may work for you. A real estate agent’s actions are governed or impacted by numerous sets of rules, including:
- The Fair Housing Act
- The National Association of REALTORS Code of Ethics
- State real estate laws
- Employing broker’s guidelines
- Other discrimination laws
The Federal Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act is at the core of a real estate agent’s obligations. Because they are not well known, yet nonetheless form the basis of an agent’s business, this collection of guidelines is susceptible to being forgotten by agents. The U.S. Civil Rights Act, which also included the Fair Housing Act, was enacted into law in 1968. Its goal is to stop discrimination of any form in housing in the United States. Later, in 1974 and 1988, it was changed to add more protections. And it is still in effect today as an active safeguard.
There are seven distinct classes protected by the Fair Housing Act:
- National origin
- Familial status
State Fair Housing Laws
To address housing discrimination, many states have enacted legislation. For instance, the state of California increased the list of protected classes under its fair housing statute. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act covers the following categories in addition to those covered by federal law:
- Gender expression or gender identity
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Medical condition
- Sexual orientation
- Military or veteran status
- Primary language
- Source of income
Real estate agents, brokers, lenders, and landlords must make careful follow state regulations as well because many other states have additional classes beyond those of the federal Fair Housing Act. If you raise a question and your real estate agent doesn’t directly respond, there’s a strong possibility it has to do with federal or state fair housing legislation.
Fair Housing Laws in Action
Many individuals are surprised to hear that real estate agents are legally obligated to refuse certain requests, thus this information often comes as a surprise. Real estate brokers are required to uphold laws that prevent housing discrimination against the groups listed above, regardless of whether your request has good or innocent intentions.
Imagine that when your agent asks you about your weekend, you answer that you attended your cousin’s wedding and that the ceremony was conducted at a neighboring synagogue. When you later ask your agent to recommend a certain neighborhood, they cannot steer you in one direction or the other based on the assumption that you could be Jewish. Even casual conversation can influence an agent’s mentality and the actions that follow.
Protected Classes in Neighborhoods
In the same vein, it is against the law for an agent to provide information regarding the ethnic composition of a community. For instance, purchasers shouldn’t request that an agent show them houses in areas where the majority of the residents are Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, or any other race or ethnicity. The agent is also prohibited from attempting to steer you, as a buyer, only toward particular communities based on your actual (or presumed) race or ethnicity.
Discrimination in Listing Advertising
Agents must take care to ensure that their advertisements are not directed toward or represent any of the protected classes. Although it seems like a vague restriction, numerous laws and guidelines offer lists of words or expressions that might be prohibited under fair housing legislation or the ethics codes of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the context of ads. When listing your home for sale or rent, do not ask your agent to use words or phrases like:
- Bachelor pad
- Singles only
- Golden agers
- Section eight
- Children are not welcome
Demands for School Districts – How to Spot Real Estate Discrimination
Most agents are aware of the need to follow federal and state laws, but many also act cautiously in case of legal action. Some real estate brokers will refrain from a variety of other inquiries simply because they fear being sued. For instance, there is no assurance that residents of particular school districts in California will be able to enroll their children in those schools. When a client requests that their agent locate a property for them in a specific school district, the agent may warn the client that it’s possible that their children won’t attend the school of their choice.
Talking About Crime and Safety
When discussing crime, the same idea holds. If a buyer is curious about the local crime statistics, or a home, smart agents will direct buyers to the police department or other sources of information. An agent should never disclose crime stats or say a neighborhood is a safe place to live, even if they think that it’s true.
The Bottom Line – How to Spot Real Estate Discrimination
These are just a few instances of how your agent may need to use caution to conduct real estate business in compliance with the law. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the fundamental laws against housing discrimination before you search to purchase or sell so you and your agent are on the same page.