This is not a good week for Realtors in the news. With today’s instant international news coverage and exposure, I just don’t understand how people think they can still get away with this blatantly stupid and illegal behavior. I guess maybe when some people obtain a Broker’s license, they may think they are no longer required to follow the Code of Ethics, not to mention Federal Laws. The other reason I posted this is just a gentle reminder that even though you and I do not discriminate, we always have to be wary of the buyers and sellers out there who will ever so gently and vaguely suggest that you honor their warped values and be sure not to let in the “wrong” kind of people to our nice neighborhood. The only certainty in all of this is if you don’t remain vigilant, you could join Broker Hasenstab in court and in front of her peers at the Wisconsin Real Estate Commission.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it has charged RE/MAX Realty 100, RE/MAX real estate broker Phyllis Hasenstab, and homeowner Edith Halvorsen with violating the Fair Housing Act by allegedly refusing to permit an African-American woman to view a home that was for sale.
The charge alleges that the actions of the respondents made Halverson’s four-bedroom single family home in the Bluemound area unavailable to Tami Doss, who is a principal in the Milwaukee Public School System. Doss was interested in the home because she is required to live within the Milwaukee city limits in order to maintain her position.
HUD’s investigation found that, in July 2005, Doss contacted Margaret Silkey, a real estate broker with first Weber Group Realtors, to help her locate a home in the City of Milwaukee. Silkey told Doss about Halvorsen’s home because it fit all her requirements and was in her price range. Silkey informed Halvorsen that she had a potential buyer. Halvorsen asked if the buyer was African American, and Silkey informed her that it was against the "discrimination laws" to provide that type of information. Halvorsen then allegedly said that when "blacks" moved into her sister’s neighborhood, property values fell. She stated that she "could not do that to her neighbors." Both Doss and Silkey filed complaints with HUD. Silkey alleged that she suffered financial damages because of the lost opportunity to make the sale, as well as damage to her professional reputation.
Halvorsen eventually hired RE/MAX real estate broker Phyllis Hasenstab. Although Silkey wanted to show Doss the house, Hasenstab excluded Silkey from showing the property to any potential buyers. HUD’s investigation showed that Hasenstab allegedly took this action because Silkey had called the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and talked to them about Halvorsen’s discriminatory comments. The house was eventually sold to a white person, and Doss is still renting.
Under the Fair Housing Act’s provision on choice of forum, RE/MAX has elected to have the case heard in federal district court.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 9,000 housing discrimination complaints annually.