The Fair Housing Act: the Hot Current Topic in Real Estate
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) was first passed in 1968, as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed as an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act in 1968 differed from the original Civil Rights Act in 1964, and expanded to include the prohibition of discrimnation of housing sales, rentals and financing based on race, religion, gender, national origin, family and handicap status. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act is now known as the Fair Housing Act by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is to be abided by all professionals involved in housing sale, rental and financial processes, to ensure equal opportunity to all prospective house buyers or renters.
The Fair Housing Act has received national attention in the Real Estate Sector recently due to the three-year long undercover investigation that was recently brought to the public’s attention in November, regarding the unequal treatment of prospective buyers in parts of Long Island. The investigation consisted of 25 trained ‘testers’, that acted as potential home buyers. These testers met with 93 Real Estate Agents in Long Island, and analyzed over 5,700 housing listings in the area. The study found significant evidence through its investigation of unequal treatment of prospective buyers from Real Estate Agents based on their ethnicity. This has sparked a large conversation in the industry in terms of what needs to be done in order to avoid this type of treatment going forward.
In light of this discovery, The National Association of Realtors® met with members of both the US Housing and Urban Development Department, and The Fair Housing Act Department earlier this month to create a new plan to tackle this significant issue. They all unanimously voted in favor of the new plan. The new plan, abbreviated ‘ACT’, stands for (A)ccountability, (C)ulture Change and (T)raining to ensure the 1.4 million REALTORS® in America are doing everything they can to protect housing rights in the US. The new plan specifically commits the NAR to:
- Work closely with State Association Executives to ensure that state licensing laws include effective fair-housing training requirements and hold real estate agents accountable to their fair housing obligations.
- Launch a Public-Service Announcement Campaign that reaffirm NAR’s commitment to fair housing, and how consumers can report problems.
- Integrate fair housing into all REALTOR® conferences and engagements (to include a fair housing theme throughout the May Midyear Meeting.
- Explore the creation of a voluntary self-testing program, in partnership with a fair housing organization, as a resource for brokers and others who want confidential reports on agent practices so they can address problems.
- Create more robust fair housing education, including unconscious-bias training, and education on how the actions of REALTORS® shape communities.
- Conduct a national study to determine what factors motivate discrimination in sales market.
- Profile leaders who exemplify the best fair housing practices and workplace diversity
- Develop materials to help REALTORS® provide consumers with information on schools that avoids fair housing pitfalls.
Unlike Real Estate Agents, REALTORS® are members of the NAR®, and are abided by a ‘Code of Ethics’ in which they must practice and uphold. The equal treatment of all potential buyers and abiding by the Fair Housing Act is included in the ‘Code of Ethics’. REALTORS® are also required by the NAR® to partake in continuing education courses, to ensure they are up-to-date with all the latest industry trends, as well as ensuring their commitment to the ‘Code of Ethics’. This is one of the major advantages and differences between a Real Estate Agent and a REALTOR®. Real Estate Agents are not abided by the NAR® ‘Code of Ethics’. Working with a local Ulster County REALTOR®, who is a member of both the Ulster County Board of REALTORS® and NAR® helps ensure you are partnered with an industry expert that has your best interest in mind, as well as is bound to the ‘Code of Ethics’.
The UCBR and its members value being a REALTOR® versus a Real Estate Agent, as to ensure their clients are working with Real Estate professionals that value best practice and equal treatment of all their clients. When you’re ready to start looking for your next house, make sure you contact UCBR to ensure you are working with not only the best REALTORS® in the area, but also those who are committed to abiding by the ‘Code of Ethics’, ensuring your best interest in your home hunting journey. Find out more by visiting www.ulstercountyboardofrealtors.com, or calling (845) 338- 5299 to speak with the UCBR in finding the right REALTOR®.
Published in the Daily Freeman on January 26, 2020.
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