The Fair Housing Act and What Real Estate Agents Need to Know
The Fair Housing Act is one of the most progressive collection of laws ever enacted in the history of the United States. These protective measures were put in place to prevent discrimination and establish equality for everyone.
Regardless of your fiduciary duty as a real estate agent to follow these laws, providing an honest, fair, and dignified service to people of all backgrounds is just plain smart for business.
Instead of forcing you to rummage through Wikipedia or one of those thick encyclopedia books from the public library, we summarize the Fair Housing Act’s history, bills, and things you need to know when working as a real estate agent.
Fair Housing Act Laws and Real Estate Agents
The Fair Housing Act spans back all the way to the postbellum era. Here are the laws you should familiarize yourself with:
Civil Rights Act of 1866
This bill-turned-law was signed in by Andrew Johnson and states, “All citizens of the United States shall have the same right in every state and territory as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.”
Now, what does this mean?
Plain and simple, this law prohibits any sort of discrimination against race. Period. There are no excuses for breaking this law in any capacity and it should be considered a staple of your business’ ethical standards.
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968
This act “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. It also requires that all federal programs relating to housing and urban development be administered in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing.”
Lyndon B. Johnson signed this law into place during the King assassination riots and it was crucial for increasing federal funding and limiting further hate crimes. It fully established that you cannot discriminate housing against anyone based on their race, color, religion, or national origin.
Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 1968
Joseph Lee Jones, a black man, took the Alfred H. Mayer real estate company in St. Louis County, Missouri to the Supreme Court after the company refused to sell him a home in a specific neighborhood due to his race.
The result? Citing Section 1982 of the Congressional Act, the high court sided with Jones in that the Alfred H. Mayer company discriminated against Jones due to the color of his skin.
This result led to an establishment of equal opportunities to all regardless of ancestral, ethnic, physical, cultural, or linguistic differences, or anything based on age, sex, race, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability, religious creed, national origin, or sexual orientation. It also set a standard for how real estate agents would run their practices as we moved towards the new millennium.
Housing and Community Development Act of 1974
With this act, the government went a step further and declared that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, national origin, religion, or sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with Federal financial assistance.”
Essentially, this established Section 8 housing and “established a program of community development block grants” while further extending federal equality in relation to urban and community housing development.
Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988
As stated in the bill, the act “Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1968 to include within the definition of discriminatory housing practice new prohibitions against coercion, intimidation, threats, or interference because of a handicap.”
In better words, you cannot treat people who have a handicap any differently than anyone else and you must create an environment that does not hinder full use of the property. This law covers families with disabled children as well.
What Does the Fair Housing Act All Mean?
Simply put, you cannot discriminate against anyone due to any certain characteristics or personal bias. Here are some examples of what this means in relation to real estate:
- Lying to a client based on discriminatory biases, such as saying a home is not for sale when it actually is
- Unlawful altering of the terms and conditions for a home purchase, or loan
- Blatant discrimination in your business practice, advertising, or marketing
- Refusal to rent, sell, or negotiate based on discriminatory biases
These are not all the examples that are covered by the Fair Housing Act but should function as an obvious guide for conducting your real estate business.
The Fair Housing Act has become one of our country's greatest achievements, allowing for equality for all when it comes to purchasing, selling, and renting properties. Working as a real estate agent, it is your duty to treat each and every lead and client the same. In turn, it leads to a more fair society that everyone can benefit from.
Learn More About The Fair Housing Act
Newsday did a fantastic undercover piece on discriminatory bias in Long Island. We strongly urge you to read up on this investigation.
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