What everyone should know about Equal Opportunity in Housing

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

The Law

Equal Opportunity in Housing is the law of the land and the right of all in this country without regard to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

Civil Rights Act of 1866

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 provides that "All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property." In the case of Jones vs. Mayer decided on June 17, 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 1866 law prohibits "all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property."

Fair Housing Act

The Federal Fair Housing Act declares a national policy of fair housing throughout the United States. The law makes illegal any discrimination in the sale, lease or rental of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. The law requires that all people be treated equally with respect to the terms or conditions of sale, purchase, lease or rental and prohibits making housing unavailable because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

The Responsibility

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

For The Home Seller

You should know that 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 on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot establish discriminatory terms or conditions in the purchase or rental; deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rent when in fact it 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.

For The Home Seeker

You have the right to expect that housing will be available to you 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
  • non-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.

For The Real Estate Professional

As a home seller or home seeker, you should know that the term REALTOR identifies a licensed professional in real estate who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. Not all licensed real estate brokers and salespersons are members of the National Association, and only those who are can identify themselves as REALTORS. They conduct their business and activities in accordance with a strict Code of Ethics.

As agents in a real estate transaction, licensed brokers or salespersons 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.

The Equal Opportunity Program

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS has developed a Fair Housing Program to provide resources and guidance to REALTORS in ensuring equal professional services for all people.

The Code of Ethics

Article 10 of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Code of Ethics requires that "REALTOR shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. REALTORS shall not be a party to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin".

A REALTOR pledges to conduct business in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Code of Ethics. Article 10 imposes obligations upon REALTORS and is also a firm statement of support for equal opportunity in housing.

The Voluntary Affirmative Marketing Agreement (VAMA)

The Voluntary Affirmative Marketing Agreement (VAMA), negotiated with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development outlines a program of voluntary compliance in which REALTORS voluntarily agree to certain activities and programs to acquaint the community with the availability of equal housing opportunity, to establish office procedures to ensure that there is no denial of equal professional service, to make materials available which will explain this commitment and to work with other groups within the community to identify and remove barriers to fair housing.

Further Assistance

Local Boards of REALTORS will accept complaints alleging violations of the Code of Ethics filed by a home seeker who alleges discriminatory treatment in the availability, purchase or rental of housing. Local Boards of REALTORS have a responsibility to enforce the Code of Ethics through professional standards procedures and corrective action in cases where a violation of the Code of Ethics is proven to have occurred.

Complaints alleging discrimination in housing may be filed with the nearest office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or by calling HUD's toll free number 1-800-669-9777.