Fair Housing Act Violations and Other Potentially Offensive Terms

Real Estate Agent with Fathom Realty West Sound WA State 52404

This past week, I listed a nice property situated on a peaceful rural 5 acre parcel down in Port Orchard.

You can see a virtual slide show of the property 14098 Glenwood Road SW Port Orchard WA

Just a few minutes after the listing was published and went live, I received an email from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, kindly notifying me that I had commited a listing violation.

More specifically, I had used descriptive language in my listing remarks section that violated the Fair Housing Act - a term/word that was discriminatory and potentially offensive.

And just what was this deplorable, slanderous, and offensive term?

The word was 'Family.'

It's interesting to note that the NWMLS uses the term 'Family Room' in their Residential Input room location fields.

I wonder how it is that they can use the same term as I did, but not be equally in violation of the Fair Housing Act?

Here is a link to the Fair Housing Word Report that I had received.


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Rich Jacobson is a licensed real estate professional with Keller Williams West Sound, providing knowledgeable empowerment and relentless representation for his clients of residential properties and vacant land throughout all of Kitsap County WA and portions of Pierce, Mason, and Jefferson Counties. You can also find him at KitsapLifeSoundBiteBlog, and Crabbing in the Hood, or e-mail: kitsapagent@gmail.com

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Rich Jacobson is a District Director for Fathom Realty and a licensed REALTOR®; an avid Crab Hunter, Clam Digger, and Oyster Shucker, He is the Social Media Evangelist for Life on the Kitsap Peninsula & The Western Puget Sound in scenic WA State.


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  1. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 06/28/2012 09:33 PM
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Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

What . . . people don't have a "family" anymore!?!  I'm a single woman and I sit in my family room to type this.  Who's offended or "discriminated" against by the word "Family"?  Family takes on all forms and is a very INCLUSIVE word to me.

Write this up in your nexr lisitng: 

"Items excluded from sale:  The black blind in the family room, the Polish shine dedicated to the prestigious Mexican Protestant Saint Francis, and the Indian youth painting in Grandma's house behind the wheelchair above the garage."

Jun 29, 2012 06:01 AM #36
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


Other agents in our local MLS have had the same notice sent to them.  I hope Wallace is correct in her comment.  We should beable to advertise our listings as family homes.

Jun 29, 2012 07:32 AM #37
Christina Ehli
RE/MAX Platinum - Brighton, Michigan - Brighton, MI
RE/MAX Platinum Brighton MI Real Estate Agent

In Michigan I still see a lot of  listings in the MLS  that say" Great for Families"  .  .  . I wouldn't do it however.  What do you think of "walking distance to downtown . . . ".  ? I would think that would exclude people that couldn't walk but it is a very common phrase here. Thanks for sharing!

Jun 29, 2012 09:24 AM #38

I once had clients tell me they were reluctant to look at a house that was advertised as near a certain church. The inclusion of the church name made them feel excluded.

On the other hand, I worked with a single gay man who specifically said he wanted to live in a "family neighborhood" because he wanted his visiting grandkids to feel at home there.

I remember wondering in each of these cases if I would be guilty of steering if I honored their requests.


Jun 29, 2012 09:25 AM #39
Linda Schneider
Fast Newsletters - San Diego, CA
Fast Newsletters for Real Estate Agents

Sorry, I hadn't logged in before making the previous comment!

Jun 29, 2012 09:26 AM #40
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

Wow. I found it interesting that other words like, "Executive, Traditional, Handicap, and Wheelchair" were also on the list. It seems like these are common descriptive words, particularly in certain neighborhoods. How would you say that you had a "wheelchair accessable home"? That is important to someone in a wheelchair, is it not? 

I'll also assume that your fair housing laws are different than here in FL and in SC where we just moved from. Sexual orientation is not a protected class - not that I plan on descriminating, but there were clearly several words that would have applied.

Also in FL there are a lot of 55+ communities where the terms, "adult, senior and retired" would be common phrases for. I think half of our MLS would get thrown out. 

Jun 29, 2012 10:22 AM #41
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Rich, yikes!  Once the Washington Post bounced back an ad with the heading "Drama Queen".  It pretty much described the condo.   Too bad I had to chage it to "Dramatic Spaces".  Oh well.  This stuff can get out of hand.

Jun 29, 2012 12:37 PM #42
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

An intesting topic.. and maybe we need to rethink the word "family"... I think it would be great to get some clarification for those on high.. not sure I understand.

Jun 29, 2012 12:47 PM #43
Doug Rogers
Bayou Properties - Alexandria, LA
Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent

We will be the first empire to fall from political correctness. Sad really how far we have veered from the Founding Principles.

Jun 29, 2012 02:06 PM #44
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Rich - It all seems a little crazy, but I guess we have to do our best to follow the rules as they stand.

Jun 29, 2012 02:15 PM #45
David O'Doherty
Raleigh Realty Inc - Clayton, NC
Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC

That looks like a nice place to raise a ______! As much as it seems silly I get the purpose of it. What I don't get is the fact that they will allow you to have a family room just not a  family reunion,HA!

Jun 29, 2012 08:41 PM #46
Phil Leng
Retired - Kirkland, WA
Phil Leng - Retired



I am horrified, non plussed, shocked.

You used the word FAMILY? Right out there in public?

You really should be ashamed!


Jun 29, 2012 10:03 PM #47
Greg Nino
RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP - Houston, TX
Houston, Texas

"Offended." I can only think of bad words when I think of this problem.

Jun 30, 2012 12:15 AM #48
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Hi Rich. I was once warned about "perfect for a growing family"word in a listing description in the here. I wrote back that I appreciated them looking out for me and explained that it was a commonly used here - not meant to be exclusionary at all. I changed it to read "perfect for a growing family and anyone else". I heard nothing more...
Good Luck!


Jun 30, 2012 12:32 AM #49
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Rich, WOW that is insane.  What is even more insane is that I can think of several words that are offensive that they would probably not give a second thought to, because they would be looked upon as politically correct.

When the word Family starts becoming offensive, what is next?

Jun 30, 2012 08:45 AM #50
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams fox cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

With all of the hysteria and miss information out there keeping us from doing our job, it is good to have a sensible person like Wallace #8 to set the facts straight.

Thanks for posting this important topic Rich and thanks Wallace for steering us in the right direction to find some solutions.

Jul 01, 2012 09:19 PM #51
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Sounds like the PC police on streoids. You're clearly not vilating the intertion of the lawmakes so why should you be leld to the lettering of the text.

Did you have to change it?


Jul 14, 2012 06:30 AM #52
James A. Browning
Browning Real Estate School/REO Institute - International, IT
MRE REOCertified(R) SSCertified

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James A. Browning MRE, CEO & Founder, REO Institute

Jul 25, 2012 02:13 AM #53
Trey Thurmond
BCR Realtors - College Station, TX
College Station , Texas Homes

We were told here to avoid the use of  the words "within walking distance"  or " biking distance" as this could be a problem for those with walking disability. I think we have to play by the rules even though they may sometimes be the product of those that have nothing else to be concerned with in this life and in no way directly harm anyone.

Sep 10, 2012 01:13 PM #54
Michelle Hofmann

does anyone have a copy of the complete NWMLS list?

Jul 21, 2014 08:36 AM #55
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