What NOT to Say: Fair Housing Conversations

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RE Magazine — Summer 2017

In the Spring 2017 edition of RE Magazine, I mentioned the critical importance of our awareness as real estate professionals of the Fair Housing law that prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status.

I encouraged open Fair Housing conversations among REALTOR® colleagues, within our offices and in our communities. I also urged that we have frank conversations with our clients, as needed, to ensure their understanding of Fair Housing practices.

What I want to focus on here are the things real estate brokers need to avoid saying to prevent any implication of housing discrimination when working with our clients.

Lack of awareness can cause brokers to inadvertently violate Fair Housing law. They make comments that can be construed as “steering,” or statements that could steer clients away from, or toward, certain neighborhoods based on race, religion or other protected categories.

To give readers a practical example of this, I sent out an email to several respected colleagues and asked them for comments that they felt should be avoided to prevent Fair Housing violations…

Some of these comments might seem innocent to a broker at the time as he or she tries to dial in on the desires of the client. But, statements like these could be considered violations of Fair Housing law.

Preventing Fair Housing Violations

As we advise people every day on their opportunities for homeownership, it is our responsibility to be aware of how we communicate so that we do not imply or impose discriminatory practices.

If you hear questionable comments from brokers, I encourage you to engage in a dialogue with them about what they have said. They may just need to be educated on the subject.

Fair Housing education should be a top priority for all of our real estate offices. In my experience, violations happen when owners and firms are not 1) providing in-house broker agent training or encouraging their brokers to participate in training outside of their firm, and 2) training employees who staff their offices and come into contact with consumers.

These two things can make a significant impact on Fair Housing awareness and greatly contribute to the professionalism in our offices and communities.

Stay updated on Fair Housing issues with a Fair Housing toolkit available on the National Association of REALTORS® website at: www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-fair-housing.

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