By Sherman Milton III
I remember studying to become a REALTOR® and learning about the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Little did I realize at the time of how crucial and important it is in my day-to-day operations, as I am sure it is for many of you as well.
The Fair Housing Act was created to protect individuals from discrimination when they are engaged in activities to attain a home. This usually includes renting or purchasing a home, obtaining a mortgage, seeking housing assistance and a few others. This Act primarily protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and/or disability.
As agents, it’s our job to get to know our clients. This is usually done through casual conversations. It’s through these “get to know you” conversations where there could be a risk of violating the Fair Housing Act. Without even knowing it, we may unintentionally violate the Act by the asking of, answering to, or inferring demographic-related information.
There are many other pitfalls we should all be aware of to protect ourselves and to protect the brand of our profession. Some helpful tips or reminders to help navigate through the Do’s and Don’ts of the Fair Housing
Act are listed below:
- Review Advertising: Be aware of the descriptions and words that you use. Refrain from making statements like “Perfect for families” and “A safe area” or exclusionary words like “No” and “Only.”
- Don’t Send Love Letters: Although a nice gesture/ tactic, sending letters to the sellers from your buyers could possibly violate fair housing regulations depending on what is written.
- Never Assume: The property listings you share with your clients should align with their search criteria. Going rogue on what you assume they need could also lead to an unintentional violation.
- Don’t Steer: Agents may believe they are helping, however guiding a client to a neighborhood due to their race or financial profile could be construed as discriminatory and direct violation of the Fair Housing Act.
As we’ve seen over the years, discrimination happens to individuals and families in various life events. People have suffered from discrimination through different social injustices such as financial limitations, educational opportunities, equal rights in our society and unfortunately within the home buying/renting process. The creation of the FHA is to ensure everyone is treated regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and/or disability. It is the responsibility of our profession to make it happen. #MakeItHappen
Sherman Milton III (Florida Heritage RE Group LLC) is a 2021 Greater Tampa REALTORS® Board member and the 2021 YPN Ambassador.