If you want to become a real estate agent in Texas, one thing you need to learn about is fair housing. Federal and state legislation protects people from discrimination in the housing market. Your role as a Texas real estate agent is to uphold the law and provide equitable service to all your clients.
Want to learn more about fair housing in Texas? You'll find a brief overview of the important issues here.
What Is Fair Housing?
For years, discrimination in the Texas real estate industry was the norm. Even the state capitol, Austin, prohibited people of color from living outside designated areas. This created neighborhoods where Black and Brown residents faced added discrimination in the form of poorly funded schools and services.
Fair housing legislation is designed to end practices that lead to segregation and inequity. It makes it illegal to discriminate against protected individuals throughout the buying and selling process.
The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 is a piece of federal civil rights legislation that defines "protected classes" of people and prohibits discrimination in the following areas:
Getting a mortgage.
Leasing, buying, and selling a home.
Seeking help with any aspect of the buying and selling process.
Engaging in activities related to housing.
The primary focus of the original Fair Housing Act was to end discrimination on the basis of race. In 1974 and 1988, fair housing legislation expanded to include gender, disability, and family status.
The seven protected classes are as follows:
Ethnicity, or country of origin.
Color (specifically, discrimination against darker-skinned people).
Mental and physical disability.
Familial status (discrimination against people with children).
Texas's Fair Housing Act
Texas has its own statute designed to prevent housing discrimination. Property Code Title 15, Chapter 301 contains the Texas Fair Housing Act.
This legislation prevents discrimination against protected persons, families, corporations, and legal representatives in the following areas:
The sale or rental of a property.
The publication of documents advertising or related to the sale or rental of a property.
The inspection process.
Entry into a neighborhood (i.e., it is illegal to bar someone from viewing a home in any neighborhood).
The statue covers both residential and commercial real estate transactions.
There are exemptions in the Texas law. If a person owns fewer than three properties, and they negotiate the sale or rental of a property without using a brokered service, they are exempt from the terms of the statute.
Real estate agents, however, must always follow the Texas Fair Housing Act.
Fair Housing Best Practices for Texas Real Estate Agents
1. Focus on The Budget
The best way to follow the law is to focus on what your client can afford, not where you think they want to live. If they have stated other wish list items, strive to accommodate those as well, of course. But be careful to select homes that meet their criteria from a variety of neighborhoods. Your clients will decide which area best suits their needs.
2. Be a Good Listener
People in the seven protected classes may have unique challenges, but it's not your place to determine what those are. Let the client tell you what they want. Do not assume that one person in a protected class has the same needs or desires as another.
3. Avoid Code Words in Your Real Estate Descriptions
The Texas Fair Housing Act prevents discriminatory language in documents related to the sale or rental of a property. That includes MLS descriptions, brochures, and other forms of advertising. Remain neutral in your language, avoiding code words. For instance, describing a neighborhood as having "traditional family values" could be seen as discriminatory to people in some religions.