April is Fair Housing Month—a reminder of the rights of home buyers and tenants, that no matter their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, or sexual orientation they have the right to buy and rent without discrimination. One of the most important aspects of fair housing that we as REALTORS ® should take away from this month is the importance for real estate agents to help enforce the rights of our customers, inform sellers and landlords that they have to abide by those same requirements, and protect the citizens at large throughout the year and in every transaction.
If you see someone violating those rights—speak up, let them know—they may not be aware. Tell a seller that is against the law to tell them the race of the buyer in order for them to accept a contact, or a landlord that a single mom with two children has to be evaluated on the same basis as a male with no kids. The federal Fair Housing Act prevents us from refusing to sell or rent housing; refusing to negotiate for housing; falsely denying a property is available for inspection, sale or lease; or denying anyone access or membership in a facility or service.
Violation of fair housing laws comes with a steep penalty that pertains to all, not just licensed real estate agents. Violators may be suite for punitive and/or actual damages; the Attorney General may file suit in federal District Court and, if they believe there is a pattern of discrimination, $16,000 to $65,000 in civil penalties may be charged.
Be mindful of the rights of others. To commemorate Fair Housing Month, the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS® is hosting NAR’s popular “At Home with Diversity” course on Thursday, April 25, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The course is designed to provide practical skills and tools to increase the REALTOR®’s effectiveness in working with all social groups, by helping participants to develop cross-cultural communication skills and apply and practice fair housing laws.
Armor Realty of Tallahassee
Chairman, Equal Opportunity Committee