When you start to practice real estate, one of the most important things for you to know about is fair housing law. What is fair housing? And why does it matter to you as a Georgia real estate agent?
Fair Housing Explained
Fair housing is all about, you guessed it, fairness. Historically, certain groups have been unfairly denied opportunities, based on race, religion, sex, disability, and other categories. Fair housing laws are in place so that everyone has an equal shot at housing. No discrimination allowed!
The Fair Housing Act of 1968
While other federal laws came before it, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was the first federal law to have a true impact on housing discrimination. This Act says it is unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person's inclusion in a protected class.
Naturally, this law is very important if you practice real estate, because your goal is to facilitate the sale, purchase, or lease of real estate.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based upon these protected classes:
Familial status (families who have children under 18, pregnant women, and people in the process of obtaining custody of a child)
Color (based on skin color: light-skinned, dark-skinned, etc.)
Religion (Christian, Jewish, etc.)
National origin (the country of birth or ancestry)
Sex (male or female)
Disability (a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity: blindness, deafness, mobility impairment, cognitive impairment, etc.)
Race (Caucasian, African American, Asian, etc.)
Since fair housing is an important topic tested by the Georgia Real Estate Exam, here’s a memory trick:
Fair Housing: Agent Dont’s
If you’re studying to be an agent, you’ll need to know about the Fair Housing Act. Most importantly, though, you’ll need to know the Act’s prohibitions in and out for when you are a practicing real estate agent. Here are those prohibitions at a glance.
Some examples of violations of the Fair Housing Act:
An agent won't work with an African American woman because of her race.
An agent insults or ignores a Hispanic customer, while treating a white customer courteously and attentively.
An agent shows African American customers' houses only in historically Black neighborhoods.
A property manager offers a female prospective tenant different advice from that offered to a male prospective tenant.
A landlord charges higher rents and deposits to families with children.
A lender refuses to make loans in a neighborhood because it is known as a refuge for immigrants.
A landlord refuses to install a wheelchair ramp for a disabled tenant, even though it would not pose an undue financial burden.
Fair Housing: Agent Do’s
That’s what not to do. As a Georgia real estate agent, what should you do to ensure fair housing?
Stick to Price Range
Always start with finding available homes within the client's price range. Make sure that you pick homes in all different areas and neighborhoods. Never try to guess or make decisions about where you think your buyer would want to live.
You don't want to be that agent who eliminates a group of people or limits the type of people who could take advantage of a property. For example, if an agent advertised a home as "perfect for a young couple," they have effectively stated that a family shouldn't have this home.
Provide Equal Treatment
Intent doesn’t matter when it comes to fair housing prosecution. An agent may be aware of all the rules, but still, find themselves discriminating even if they didn't intend to do so.
For example, consider an agent who has a customer who is in a wheelchair. The agent decides that two-story homes would probably not be appropriate for someone in a wheelchair. There may not be ill will in this assumption, but it is not the license holder’s responsibility to make that type of decision for their client. The best way to avoid accusations of discrimination is to treat everyone who enters your real estate office exactly the same.
The Georgia Fair Housing Act of 1988
Georgia has its very own fair housing act. It’s very similar to the federal act. However, any practicing Georgia real estate agent should know that some cities in Georgia have protected classes in addition to the federally protected classes.
For example, Atlanta protects on the basis of the federal seven as well as age, domestic relationship status, parental status, and gender identity or sexual orientation.
Learn what local fair housing ordinances are relevant to your area!