The 1968 Fair Housing Act is a federal act intended to protect the buyer or renter of a property from seller or landlord discrimination. Its primary prohibition makes it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person's inclusion in a protected class.

What Classes Are Protected Under the Fair Housing Act?

The seven classes protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act are:

  • Race

  • Color

  • National Origin

  • Religion

  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)

  • Familial Status (i.e., families with children, pregnant women, marital status)

  • Disability

How do you ensure you are complying with the Fair Housing law during the application and screening process?

In fair housing terms, discrimination means treating someone differently based on their being part of a protected class.

To ensure you aren't inadvertently discriminating against a potential buyer, consider using a documented and/or consistent method to screen and accept applicants. Properly qualify buyers using an application, and use other credit and background checks and income verification to supplement the application materials.

Give everyone an equal opportunity to apply — no matter what they look or sound like — and accept or deny buyers based on criteria that are consistently applied and not related to a prospective buyer's status as part of a protected class.

Avoid questions or suggestions that may be perceived as discriminatory. Asking a friendly question like, “Are you two married?” can be interpreted as evidence of discrimination. Ask the same questions of all buyers, and score prospective buyers in a similar manner, without regard to their status as a member of a protected class.

When in doubt, keep the conversation focused on the property for sale and the amenities. Let the potential buyer ask you questions so you can answer factually.

Advertising and the Fair Housing Act

You’re most likely advertising your property on some level. In your search for a qualified buyer, make sure your advertising is compliant with fair housing laws by focusing on the property and the amenities in your listing description — not on who you think an ideal buyer would be.

For example, don’t say that your property is great for a young couple or senior citizens — this could be perceived as discrimination against families with children.

When describing the property and community, focus on facts and physical descriptors, not assumptions about the residents or neighborhood.

You will write a property description through your Listing Dashboard as part of completing your HomeLister listing. Before your listing goes live on the MLS, our brokerage team reviews your description, and if there is any language that violates Fair Housing practices, we will notify you to correct it.

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