With the end of April comes the end of Fair Housing Month, but it’s good business to be up to speed year-round on the history and rules that have been in effect for more than 40 years. After all, that little Equal Housing Opportunity logo is found on many of the printed real estate advertisements in the United States.
1. Enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act serves to prohibit discrimination in transactions related to the sales, rental and financing of homes. Significant amendments made in 1988 expanded the act to include protections against discrimination based on disabilities and familial status.
2. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — often referred to as HUD — is responsible for the initial enforcement of the FHA. Consumers have one year to file a complaint after a violation of the act has allegedly occurred.
3. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is responsible for investigating claims filed with HUD. In situations where the office issues a Charge of Discrimination, a hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled. Either party in the proceeding can call for litigation in federal court.
4. In a precursor to the FHA, President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order banning discriminatory practices in federally funded housing on Nov. 20, 1962. According to History.com, “the policy was never enforced. The order left it up to the individual housing and funding agencies to police themselves, leaving much room for non-compliance from state to state.”
5. In 1963, California statesman William Byron Rumford spearheaded passage of the Rumford Fair Housing Act, ensuring protections against discrimination for black residents and other minorities. Though it was repealed in a 1964 referendum set in motion by the California Real Estate Association, the act was ultimately upheld by the state’s Supreme Court in 1966.
6. According to the Chicago Tribune, Martin Luther King Jr. led a series of marches in the summer of 1966 with the goal of pushing the Windy City toward “making solid commitments to open housing.” The marches ultimately prompted the Chicago Real Estate Board to drop its opposition to open-housing laws.
7. HUD policy states: “The provisions of the Fair Housing Act make it unlawful to discriminate in the sale, rental, and financing of housing, and in the provision of brokerage and appraisal services, because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
8. HUD’s policy also states: “All advertising of residential real estate for sale, rent, or financing should contain an equal housing opportunity logotype, statement, or slogan as a means of educating the homeseeking public that the property is available to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
9. Guidance regarding advertisements states: “The use of secularized terms or symbols relating to religious holidays such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or St. Valentine’s Day images, or phrases such as ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Easter,’ or the like does not constitute a violation of the Act.”
10. Additional guidance states: “Advertisements describing the properties (two bedroom, cozy, family room), services and facilities (no bicycles allowed) or neighborhoods (quiet streets) are not facially discriminatory and do not violate the Act.”
11. HUD marked the first anniversary of the FHA in April 1969 with a gala at New York’s Plaza Hotel. April subsequently went on to become “Fair Housing Month” in many states.
12. Training sessions on the FHA are available through the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST initiative. The organization hosts an online calendar with training events that cover topics like FHA policy, and requirements for design and construction.
13. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors contains an article dedicated to the principles of fair housing as they relate to Realtors, described as “a firm statement of support for equal opportunity in housing.”
14. Fair housing information and resources are available from many of the agencies listed above. Additionally, the National Fair Housing Alliance’s resources page contains links to legal resources, reports and research, and fair housing videos for the deaf and hard of hearing.
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