Code Talk: Fair Housing
Editor’s Note: The Code of Ethics turns 100 in 2013. AAR will be celebrating the code with monthly articles published under the caption, Code Talk, in the Arizona REALTOR® Magazine, discussing the various ways the code governs professional conduct and interaction with the consumer in every day transactions.
April 2013 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act. Each year, REALTORS® recognize the significance of this event and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing laws as well as our commitment to offering equal professional service to all in their search for real property.
If you have not read the Fair Housing Declaration in a while, I encourage you to do so.
Every real estate licensee in Arizona is required to take a minimum of three hours of continuing education in Fair Housing each renewal period, so you are already well versed in Fair Housing issues. What can AAR impart to our members regarding their duty to offer equal services to all and thereby provide consumers with equal opportunity in housing? Article 10 states:
REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation (Amended 1/11).
You are therefore reminded that regardless of your client’s race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin or sexual orientation they are entitled to the same level of care and service that you take pride in offering.
In the March Code Talk column, members discussed the mechanics of listing agreements, ancillary forms for listings, MLS dissemination and advertising through the Internet as it pertains to the Code of Ethics. Standard operating procedure (SOP) 10-3 relates to listings, as well stating: “REALTORS® shall not print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation,” (Adopted 1/94, Renumbered 1/05 and 1/06, Amended 1/11).
Mary Lee Greason, a Tucson REALTOR® and Fair Housing educator, offered some sage words of advice: “In advertising our listings, we need to remember the advice I heard years ago from an attorney [who] prosecuted Fair Housing violations, ‘Stick to the amenities of the property and not the people who might live there!’”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently shared two scenarios which may constitute housing discrimination:
- A gay man is evicted because his landlord believes he will infect other tenants with HIV/AIDS. That situation may constitute illegal disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act because the man is perceived to have a disability, HIV/AIDS.
- A property manager refuses to rent an apartment to a prospective tenant who is transgender. If the housing denial is because of the prospective tenant’s non-conformity with gender stereotypes, it may constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex under the Fair Housing Act.
Finally, a reminder that Article 10 and SOP 10-4 extends discrimination to cover employment in real estate offices: As used in Article 10, “real estate employment practices” relates to employees and independent contractors providing real estate-related services and the administrative and clerical staff directly supporting those individuals. (Adopted 1/00, Renumbered 1/05 and 1/06).
I would like to leave you with the following from the National Association of REALTORS®:
As REALTORS®, our success isn’t measured by the bottom line. It’s measured by the trust of our clients and customers and the esteem in which we’re held by our colleagues and competitors. The National Association was founded with the goal of uniting the real estate profession through high standards to protect buyers and sellers. 100 years after its adoption, the Code of Ethics continues to be what sets us apart as REALTORS®.
About the author:
Jan Steward brings a wealth of experience to the Arizona Association of REALTORS® as the Risk Management Specialist. She is a former title company manager and escrow officer with paralegal training. As a REALTOR® and broker, Jan served the Northern Arizona Association of REALTORS® (NAAR) as board president, vice-president, director, MLS chair, delegate to NAR’s national convention and a member of the Professional Standards and Grievance Committees. Jan was honored as REALTOR® of the Year by NAAR. She also has served on AAR’s Professional Standards Committee and a variety of ad hoc committees.