When Real Estate Ads are Discriminatory

By
Real Estate Agent with The Buyers' Counsel

House with gavelSomeone posed an interesting question in the latest issue of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors' monthly magazine, Bay State Realtor.  

The question was:  Is it discriminatory against handicapped people to advertise a seaside property as a "short walk to the beach." 

The answer was:  In the 1995 HUD memorandum which addresses this, it specifically states that this type of ad is not discriminatory and it reads: 

"Handicap - real estate advertisements should not contain explicit exclusions, limitations, or other indications of discrimination based on a handicap - for example: 

no wheelchairs 

However, ads containing descriptions of properties (great view, fourth-floor walk-up, walk-in closets), services or facilities (jogging trails), or neighborhoods (walk to bus-stop) are perfectly acceptable and do not violate the Act. 

Realtors are typically very careful not to offend or exclude anyone in their advertising.  They know that they have to adhere to The Fair Housing Act which warns against the use of the following phrases: 

"Exclusive, restricted, private, no children, singles preferred, male or female only, Catholic church nearby, perfect for physically fit, Hispanic area, prefer bright, healthy person, for active or mature adults. 

The fact is that real estate ads have to be worded carefully to avoid violating any laws or creating the feeling of exclusion to any group.  Specifically, ads cannot be based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. 

As an example, if you feel that the fact that your home is a "short walk to the temple" is something that should be advertised in your property listing, you need to focus on other features since this description violates the Fair Housing Act

To prevent stepping on any of the law's toes, it is best to avoid phrases like: 

  • Bachelors' paradise (implying a single status)
  • Empty nesters (not friendly to families)
  • Executive Neighborhood (blue collar need not apply)
  • Golf Club area (discriminating against tennis players) 

But, seriously, you get the idea.  The advise that experts give in this area is when listing your home with a Realtor, be sure to stress the positive facts about the property such as, located on a cul de sac - extensive remodeling, rather than characteristics of the neighborhood that may run contrary to the Fair Housing Act.  

It's just safer for everyone. 

Related Post: 

Property Disclosure in Massachusetts - Who Has the Burden of Proof?

 

Do you have questions about buying a home in the Metrowest area?  I would love to talk with you. Please feel free to call me at 508-881-6230 - any time or E-mail me. 

Subscribe to my blog 

Copyright 2009 - Claudette Millette, Broker, Owner, TheBuyersCounsel

Learn More about Home Buyer Representation - Greater Boston and MetroWest Massachusetts -  Serving Massachusetts Home Buyers Since 1992 

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Rainmaker
148,813
Mari Montgomery
Mari Realty - Huntsville, TX
Mari Realty

Great post.  Just finished my GRI Finance cous

rse which devoted an entire day to avoiding discriminatory issues

Sep 15, 2009 12:24 PM #1
Rainer
8,467
Norma Jo Lins
Bubela & Associates - Cedar Park, TX

Claudette,

   Thanks for posting this.  I was recently in a GRI class and this was a hot topic. Several people said you couldn't say that. I have not had the time to check it out. So thanks again for looking it up and giving us a little education today. 

Smiles

Norma Jo :)

Sep 15, 2009 12:24 PM #2
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Mari:

Congratulations on finishing your GRI.  That is a great credential to have. You should be very proud of yourself!  Thanks for your comment.

Norma Jo:

Your welcome. It can be a hot topic and one that I find interesting.  Also, congrats. on your GRI.

 

Sep 15, 2009 12:31 PM #3
Ambassador
1,726,157
Richard Weisser
Richard Weisser Realty - Newnan, GA
Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional

Claudette...

A great summary of fair housing in advertising.

Featured in the Group "Whacked!!!"

Sep 15, 2009 12:54 PM #4
Rainmaker
342,754
Elizabeth Bolton
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA - Cambridge, MA
Cambridge MA Realtor

Hi Claudette ~ I missed this in the magazine so am really glad to read your post.  So many people will tell you that you can't say "walk to". I always thought that was ludicrous for the reasons you're getting at.  If you use the same logic you wouldn't be able to talk about anything you could see.  Glad to hear sanity prevails.

Liz

Sep 15, 2009 01:01 PM #5
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Richard:

Thanks very much!

 

Sep 15, 2009 01:02 PM #6
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Hi, Liz:

It is in the September/October issue. 

I know it is a tricky subject and we have to be careful but at least you can say "walk to."

 

 

 

Sep 15, 2009 01:05 PM #7
Rainmaker
492,227
Richard T. Dolbeare
Keller Williams Realty Maui - Kahului, HI
R(B), ABR, CRS...Hawaii Multi-Island Specialist

And don't forget to check your state laws which may have additional prohibitions.

Sep 15, 2009 02:15 PM #8
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Richard:

That's an excellent point. 

 

Sep 15, 2009 02:48 PM #9
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Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co. - Prosper, TX
Real Estate Agents

Good topic. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I really wondered why I havent read your blogs until we made our email/ phone connection.

Sep 15, 2009 03:58 PM #10
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Loreena:

Thanks.  I appreciate that.  Before you and I spoke, I really had not written many posts.  But, I am trying to catch up now.  So, please, keep reading...

 

Sep 15, 2009 04:08 PM #11
Ambassador
584,041
C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

Claudette, very nicely done. Looking forward to following your blog. I lurk a lot. :-)

Sep 15, 2009 05:34 PM #12
Ambassador
2,297,463
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

Excellent explanation of the topic. We all have to think about this when we write ads.

Sep 15, 2009 10:55 PM #13
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

C Tann:

Thank you for commenting.  Please feel free to subscribe. 

Judi:

Good morning.  Thanks for adding me as an associate.  (That's a good thing, right?)  I'm still feeling my way around here.

 

 

Sep 16, 2009 02:34 AM #14
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980,702
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Claudette... I really enjoyed this post.  It amazes me how often I see the phrase "Family Home" used by agents in the property description field in MLS.

Sep 16, 2009 10:41 AM #15
Rainmaker
403,659
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass

Hi, Steve:

Yes, I know and it sounds so innocent, really. It's rather a nice sentiment "family home", but we have to be careful.

Steve, nice new photo of you.  (Mine was only a few months old so I just resubmitted it.)  But, wow.  You are so handsome in your suit.  I remember in one of your recent posts you talked about having our photos look natural and friendly (and not too much botox :).   I liked the old photo as well but in this one your smile radiates. 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Sep 16, 2009 11:32 AM #16
Rainer
37,191
Jayson Holland
Listings.com - Denver, CO
Jay Holland

I dont think tennis players are a protected class.

Feb 07, 2012 06:01 AM #17
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