Fair housing is an important concept for all adults living in the U.S. to understand.
Buying a house is a significant event in someone’s life. Everyone dreams of the perfect house that they can turn into a home where they can build memories with their family. Fair housing is an issue for all people because everyone deserves to know their rights. But it is especially important for real estate agents to know what this term means to make sure they abide by the law and give everyone a fair chance.
What is fair housing?
Fair housing, also known as equal opportunity housing, is a way to ensure that there cannot be any discrimination in real estate transactions in the U.S. It’s a way to make sure that (you guessed it!) everyone has an equal opportunity to fair housing no matter who they are.
Fair Housing Act of 1968
Before this act was put into law, people had experienced discrimination when searching for housing. People were unfairly denied opportunities for housing based upon circumstances beyond their control. The Fair Housing Act built upon previous laws by prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and sex.
Citizens are also safeguarded further by state and local laws, which often provide broader coverage and prohibit discrimination based on additional classes not covered by federal law.
This means that Virginia has its own specific Fair Housing rules and regulations that must be abided by for any real estate transactions.
Expanding on the Fair Housing Act
Along with the Fair Housing Act, the Supreme Court also weighed in on housing laws. It’s important to know the Supreme Court decision, 1968: Jones v. Mayer determined the following:
There will be no racial discrimination in any housing based on the following characteristics:
Equal opportunity to housing is the law. It is illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on:
What if the discrimination is unintended or happens unknowingly?
Even if you didn’t intend to discriminate against a client, you are still responsible for the actions and consequences of unintended discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination does not have to be intentional to be illegal under the Fair Housing Act. Certain laws or policies may have disparate impacts that unintentionally cause discrimination and segregation.
How can I abide by the fair housing laws as a real estate agent?
In general, you need to make sure you are treating everyone fairly and equally in every transaction. If you are second-guessing whether it is discrimination or not, then you should always air on the side of caution.
Prohibited Practices in Virginia by Law
Creating, printing, or publishing any statement, notice or ad with respect to rental or sale of a dwelling that indicates discrimination, limitation, or any preference.
Giving the illusion of telling someone a dwelling isn’t available when it is
Denying access in a multiple listing service, real estate brokers office or any other type of real estate service.
Including any restrictive agreements in a rental, transfer, or lease
Inducing, or even attempting to induce, the rent or sale of any dwelling regarding the entry of a particular person(s) into a neighborhood.
Refusing reasonable modifications or accommodations to a dwelling of a person with disabilities
Designing or constructing a multifamily dwelling that is not accessible for those with disabilities
Asking a coworker or fellow real estate agent to discriminate against a client
What Aspects of Real Estate Does the Virginia Fair Housing Law Apply To?
Virginia Fair Housing Law applies to:
sales transactions (buying a home)
financing transactions (mortgage)
insurance transactions (homeowner’s insurance)
The law applies to anyone who is leading and completing these transactions, such as:
real estate agents
managers, and advertisers
Anyone who is employed in these fields and/or completes these types of transactions must abide by the rules and laws stated in the Fair Housing Act.
What if I Suspect Discrimination?
In the state of Virginia, the Fair Housing Board enforces the laws of the Fair Housing Act. The Real Estate Board handles cases that involve licensed real estate agents. Usually, it will be clients filing a report against the party who is completing the transaction, but anyone can file a complaint with the Virginia Fair Housing Office to have a person investigated for failure to adhere to the laws of the Fair Housing Act.