April is Fair Housing Month: Housing choice is your right
Without any television specials or advertising campaigns to remind us, the fact that April is Fair Housing Month can sneak up on you.
Promoting awareness of fair housing and educating people on their rights and responsibilities is essential to ensuring that we each have what the Fair Housing Act is there to provide – a choice in where we live.
And because it’s Fair Housing Month, April is a good time to highlight the Fair Housing Act and how it can protect you. This is especially important for members of a minority group or anyone whose primary language is not English.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act for an individual to take any of the following actions based on the protected classes of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability:
- Refuse to rent or sell a home
- Refuse to negotiate for a home
- Make a home unavailable
- Falsely deny that a home is available for inspection, sale, or lease
- Persuade an owner to sell or rent to a particular buyer
- Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or lease of a home
Directing a client toward or away from a specific neighborhood is also a violation of the Fair Housing Act whether intentional or not.
Real estate professionals should avoid offering their personal opinion regarding or performing any activity that highlights the racial, religious, or ethnic composition of a given neighborhood or neighborhood school.
Consider looking for a real estate professional whose territory covers a broad, diverse area, as opposed to one populated primarily by members of a certain ethnic or religious group.
Although not specifically identified in the Fair Housing Act, anyone who shows, sells, owns, manages, or offers mortgage services for housing properties might consider providing reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities and language assistance for persons with limited English proficiency in keeping with the spirit of the Act.
The vast majority of professionals in the housing industry are honest, law-abiding men and women who are well aware of fair housing issues. But it is important to learn and recognize discrimination.
Ultimately, knowledge is your best tool to avoiding discrimination. There are multiple facets to the Fair Housing Act and all Texans should be familiar with their rights under the laws of this state and country.
But don’t wait until you start your housing search. Fair housing violations — just like Fair Housing Month — can sneak up on you before you know it.