How to Recognize Discrimination in Real Estate Transactions

Jan 07, 2024 By Susan Kelly

Most real estate brokers will put in a lot of effort to assist you in finding the house of your dreams. But there are some things that, for a good reason, your agent cannot handle for you.

You should be aware of a few things while working with a real estate agent to ensure they're acting legally and fairly toward you. To prepare for your real estate business and remain within the law, you should also understand how the Fair Housing Act operates.

Discrimination Against Renters

Real estate brokers must adhere to anti-discrimination laws such as the Fair Housing Act and state law. To stop housing discrimination, many states have enacted their legislation. It is against the law for agents to respond to buyers' inquiries about an area's racial composition, for example.

Rules that Real Estate Agents Must Follow

Your real estate agent must abide by several governmental, regulatory, and ethical organizations, even if they may work for you. A real estate agent's actions are governed or impacted by numerous sets of rules, including:

Equal Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act is at the core of a real estate agent's obligations. Because they are not well known, yet nonetheless form the basis of an agent's business, this collection of guidelines is susceptible to being forgotten by agents. The U.S. Civil Rights Act, including the Fair Housing Act, was enacted in 1968. Its goal is to stop discrimination of any form in housing in the United States. Later, it was expanded upon in 1974 and 1988 to provide more safeguards, which are still in use today.

Fair Housing State Laws

To address housing discrimination, many states have enacted legislation. For instance, California increased the protected classes under its fair housing statute. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act covers the following categories in addition to those covered by federal law:


Gender identity or expression

Genealogical data

Medical condition Marital status

Sexual preference

Veterans' or military status

first language

Income Source

Real estate agents, brokers, lenders, and landlords must carefully follow state regulations because many other states have additional classes beyond those of the federal Fair Housing Act. If you raise a question and your real estate agent doesn't directly respond, there's a strong possibility it has to do with federal or state fair housing legislation.

Putting Fair Housing Laws To Use

Many individuals are surprised to hear that real estate agents are legally obligated to refuse certain requests. Thus this information often comes as a surprise. Real estate brokers must uphold laws that prevent housing discrimination against the groups listed above, regardless of whether your request has good or innocent intentions.

Agent Hypotheses

Imagine that when your agent asks you about your weekend, you answer that you attended your cousin's wedding and that the ceremony was conducted at a neighbouring synagogue. When you later ask your agent to recommend a certain neighbourhood, they cannot steer you in one direction or another based on the assumption that you could be Jewish. Even casual conversation might influence an agent's mentality and subsequent actions.

Protected Groups in Communities

In the same vein, it is against the law for an agent to provide information regarding the ethnic composition of a community. For instance, purchasers shouldn't request that an agent show them houses in areas where most residents are Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, or any other race or ethnicity. The agent is prohibited from attempting to steer you, as a buyer, only toward particular communities based on your actual (or presumed) race or ethnicity.

Advertising for Listings that discriminate

Agents must ensure that their advertisements are not directed toward or represent any protected classes. This may seem like a vague restriction, but numerous laws and guidelines contain lists of words or expressions that might be against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) ethics rules or fair housing laws when used in advertisements.

School district demands

Most agents know the need to follow federal and state laws, but many also act cautiously in case of legal action. Some real estate brokers will refrain from other inquiries simply because they fear being sued. For instance, there is no assurance that residents of particular school districts in California will be able to enrol their children in those schools.

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