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Understanding the laws of the Fair Housing Act

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Posted: Friday, April 9, 2010 12:00 am

April is Fair Housing Month. This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act.

The sale and purchase of a home is one of the most significant events that any person will experience in his or her lifetime. It is more than the simple purchase of housing, for it includes the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and economic destiny of those involved.

There are several laws that govern the right to fair housing practices. They include the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which prohibits all racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property. The Fair Housing Act declares a national policy of fair housing making it illegal to discriminate in the sale, lease or rental of housing, or making housing otherwise unavailable because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Other laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act as well as various state and local laws.

The home seller/landlord, the home buyer, and the real estate professional all have rights and responsibilities under the law.

As a home seller or landlord you have a responsibility and a requirement under the law not to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of property on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. You cannot instruct the licensed broker or salesperson acting as your agent to convey for you any limitations in the sale or rental because the real estate professional is also bound by law not to discriminate.

Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot establish discriminatory terms or conditions in the purchase or rental; deny that housing is available, or advertise that the property is available only to persons of a certain race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

A home buyer has the right to expect that housing will be available without discrimination or other limitations based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

This includes the right to expect:

  • Housing in your price range made available to you without discrimination
  • Equal professional service
  • The opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices
  • No discriminatory limitations on communities or locations of housing
  • No discrimination in the financing, appraising, or insuring of housing
  • Reasonable accommodations in rules, practices and procedures for persons with disabilities
  • Non-discriminatory terms and conditions for the sale, rental, financing, or insuring of a dwelling
  • To be free from harassment or intimidation for exercising your fair housing rights.

Agents in a real estate transaction are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. A request from the home seller or landlord to act in a discriminatory manner in the sale, lease or rental cannot legally be fulfilled by the real estate professional.

Realtors that violate this law also violate Article 10 of the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics and may be reported to their local Association for an ethics violation.

Melanie Pennino is the president of the Lodi Association or Realtors. You may reach her at larprez2010@sbcglobal.net

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