April is National Fair Housing Month, and this year marks the 55th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark civil rights law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination of protected classes when renting an apartment, buying a house, obtaining a mortgage or purchasing homeowner’s insurance. The Federal protected classes are race, the color of one’s skin, religion, national origin, sex, familial status (families with children) and disability. The Virginia Fair Housing Act also includes elderliness, source of funds and military status as protected classes.
As industry professionals, we want to provide the best service and support across the board, so what is the prohibited conduct regarding the discrimination of protected classes? The following actions are examples of prohibited conduct.
- Steering: Directing protected persons away or toward certain neighborhoods. An example would be not showing a minority a house because of its cost. Another example is steering toward a lower-income area based on the buyer’s source of funds, which is a violation of the Virginia Fair Housing Act.
- Blockbusting: Attempting to induce a sale by creating the impression that a neighborhood is about to undergo an undesirable change is considered blockbusting. For example, seeking sellers and telling them that a local district is going downhill due to recent move-ins and encouraging them to sell while the selling is good is prohibited.
- Redlining: Redlining is the unfair denial of a mortgage or insurance policy based on the property’s location. Lenders should grant loans based on the buyer’s income and the property’s appraised value. If a lender denies a loan because the property is in a deteriorating neighborhood, that’s redlining.
While these are three major violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act, it can also be something as simple as the following:
- Refusing to sell, rent, finance or insure based on the location of the property
- Refusing to deal or negotiate based on discrimination against the protected classes
- Discrimination in quoting terms or conditions of a sale or rental (Ex. Making the terms of conditions so bad that it discourages them from buying or renting to keep them from the opportunity based on the color of their skin or other discriminatory practice.)
- Misrepresentation of availability (Ex. Telling a buyer the property is no longer available based on the color of their skin or other discriminatory practice when it is available.)
- Preferential advertising (Ex. Any advertising that refers to the color, make-up or race of the neighborhood)
Should there be concerns regarding violations of the Fair Housing Act, reports can be made here. If you have questions, please contact a Highland Title + Escrow professional here.