I was involved in a discussion regarding Fair Housing Law compliance and advertisements. The author amended her stand somewhat, but originally she stated that using comments such as "Walking distance to...." in advertising our listings is a violation of the Fair Housing Act and she found it distressing that agents were using this description time and time again.
But. It is NOT a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. It may be a violation of a local ordinance or of an MLS rule - which to me is ridiculous - why do we need to make the law even more restrictive than the Federal law? Isn't the federal law enough?
Another issue brought up in the discussion involved the use of "in-law suite." That could be discriminating based on familial status. Really? Are ya kidding me? We are supposed to use "au pair quarters?" Seriously? I'll bet that's more discriminatory than in-law quarters...a lot of people have in-laws but can't afford an au pair or don't have children for an au pair to care for...and a lot of folks probably would have to look up au pair Let's be realistic here.
This has come up time and time again - phrases to avoid because they could be misconstrued as discriminatory. In my opinion, a lot of the hub-bub about this kind of stuff is the result of people over-thinking the intent of the law...and trying to make it even more restrictive than it really is - "just to be safe."
I do not rely on other people's opinions when it comes to the law - I go directly to the source. This document on the HUD.gov site - the official site for Fair Housing guidelines - clearly states that using terms such as "Walk to" or "Mother in law suite" is not a violation - yet some people advocate being hyper-cautious for "risk management" purposes. But HUD itself states that it is not a violation?
Should we stop advertising homes with libararies, because some people may be illiterate? Should we not advertise a fantastic view because someone may be blind? Should we not say the home has a rec room because some people may not be able to recreate?
Recently, Realtor.com rejected my property description that included the phrase "shoot some pool" in reference to the family room with an included pool table. "Shoot is a violent term and could be potentially offensive." Really? But that's what people say when they talk about playing pool... Another friend told me her MLS would not allow her to post something about the "white oak" woodwork in the house...because...of the word WHITE. Racist. So I suppose black granite counters would also be disallowed... this is going way way way beyond the intent of the law, don't you think?
Where does it end? We may end up using such innocuous verbiage that our advertisements will be reduced to: "This house has 14 rooms, 4 of which are designated as official bedrooms, 3 of which are bathrooms, and one kitchen."