The Fair Housing Act (FHA) ensures that any person can buy or rent a house or apartment wherever they want regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religious preference, disability, family status, or national origin. Some areas of the United States also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Fair Housing Act prevents housing discrimination and ensures equal opportunities for all tenants and homebuyers. It was enacted during the Civil Rights Movement, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It also states that you cannot discriminate through the terms of your lease agreement or by advertising with any preference toward protected classes.
Unfortunately, the Fair Housing Act doesn’t actually list the words you can’t use in marketing communications. A good rule of thumb is to avoid exclusionary words like “no” or “only,” except when the exclusion is clearly allowed by law (e.g., “no drugs” or “no smoking”).
After reading the above list of protected classes and examples of discriminatory language, you may think you have nothing to worry about. After all, most of us would never intentionally discriminate against any of the above classifications. However, intentional or not, discrimination is discrimination. Even a well-meaning comment or decision made by the landlord—or anyone acting on your behalf—can be considered discriminatory.
Know your local, state, and federal fair housing laws, too, to avoid sticking your foot in your mouth and winding up with a lawsuit on your hands. Local governments may offer stricter protections.
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What the Fair Housing Act Covers
Keep these protected classes in mind when creating your real estate advertisements. Pay attention to the wording in your ads to avoid a lawsuit.
1. National Origin, Race, or Color
Federal law states that it’s unacceptable to use language that describes the housing, neighborhood, or neighbors in a racial or ethnic way. So you can’t state that an apartment is located in a Hispanic or African-American neighborhood, even if you’re simply trying to point out the excellent Tex-Mex or Southern cuisine.
However, it is acceptable to use words such as “master bedroom,” “desirable neighborhood,” and “exceptional find” in your advertising. These terms aren’t considered racial discrimination and will not warrant the filing of a claim from a potential tenant or buyer.
Keep reading the article “The Fair Housing Act and Landlords: What You Should Know” by Brandon Turner here:
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