As a real estate agent, you are required to abide by the federal and state laws which prohibit discrimination in all of your real estate activities. You should know what the fair housing laws cover and how they affect your services. Unfortunately, unintentionally violating the fair housing laws is not a defense. You may be surprised to learn that something as innocuous as suggesting the buyer would “be a good fit” in the neighborhood could be a violation.
What is the Fair Housing Act?
Spurred by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress enacted Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly referred to as the “Fair Housing Act of 1968″, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that accompanied the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Enacted in 1968 to remove racial restrictions in the housing market, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based upon race, color, religion, sex, familial status and national origin. A subsequent amendment added disability to the “protected classes” enumerated in the FHA 42 U.S.C. §3604.
James Ra-Amari is the manager of The Real Estate People, LLC, a Houston based residential and commercial development firm. He is a father of four children, a public speaker and an author. In September, Mr. Ra-Amari, his wife and another investor (an in-law) filed a lawsuit with the United State District Court for the Southern District of Texas against numerous defendants for violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The Complaint alleges that in August 2022, the Plaintiffs, who are African-Americans, sought to purchase condominiums in the Grand West Condominiums located in Katy, Texas. They allege that they met the listing agent who showed reluctance to interact with them, asked strange and unsettling questions and then passed them on to another on-site employee to complete their tour. After the tour, they met with the agent again who ultimately indicated that she would refuse to sell any of the condos to them because she “had a gut feeling that she would not get along with Plaintiffs”. The Complaint also alleges that the marketing materials advising that the property was a new option for Chinese and Asian communities was a violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S. C. §3604(c).
Similar language to the Fair Housing Act has been incorporated in the Nevada Revised Statutes. NRS 118.020 provides that all people in this State have equal opportunity to inherit, purchase, lease, rent, sell, hold and convey real property without discrimination, distinction or restriction because of race, religious creed, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ancestry, familial status or sex. Moreover NRS 118.100(3) states that a person shall not make, print or publish, or cause to be made, printed or published, any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination, or intention to make any preference, limitation or discrimination.
The National Association of Realtors®
Article 10 of the NAR Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice provides that 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. Moreover, 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. Agents shall not volunteer information regarding the racial, religious or ethnic composition of any neighborhood (Standard of Practice 10-1) nor may they print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity (Standard of Practice 10-3).
Have you Committed One of These Acts?
There are numerous types of acts that constitute violations and they are not limited to simply a refusal to sell. For example, refusing to negotiate for housing, setting different terms or conditions for sale, falsely denying the housing is available for inspection or sale, imposing different sales prices, or using different qualification criteria may constitute discriminatory acts. Attempting to persuade a homeowner to sell their property by suggesting that people of a particular protected characteristic are also about the move into the neighborhood (a tactic known as “block busting”) is also a violation. Similarly, attempting to determine the ethnicity of a client and direct them to a particular neighborhood (known as “steering”) is a violation. Other examples of housing discrimination are published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.
PRACTICE POINTER: Real estate agents are bound by anti-discrimination laws and regulations including the Fair Housing Act and state law. Even when creating advertisements, agents have to be cognizant that they are not directed to exclude any protected classes. Having a basic understanding of the rules relating to housing discrimination is an important part of risk reduction.
The probate attorney at Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change.
Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Lee is an experienced Nevada Attorney. He focuses on probate, wills, trusts, guardianship and real estate for a wide range of clients.Mr. Drizin been representing families for more than 30 years. He has represented families in all aspects of probate, trust and guardianship administration including, but not limited to, commencement of proceedings, will and trust contests, accountings, and sales of real estate.