Fair Housing Month offers time for reflection
Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination laws and housing regulations, which have been modeled after the Federal Act, prohibit discrimination based on familial status, age, race, color, religious creed, ancestry, handicap or disability, sex and national origin, as well as the use or training of a guide or support animal.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), which is responsible for enforcing these laws and promoting equal opportunity, offers several publications to educate the public about their civil rights, and to promote equal opportunity and diversity. A copy of Pennsylvania’s fair housing law and regulations can be obtained through the PHRC website.
The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of Realtors® also provides important guidance in the area of fair housing. In addition to echoing many of the classes protected under Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination laws, Article 10 states that “Realtors® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. Realtors® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
As the Realtors® Fair Housing Declaration reminds us, Realtors® should “take a positive approach to fair housing practices and aspire to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law” and “inform [their] clients and customers about their rights and responsibilities under the fair housing laws by providing brochures and other information.”
The National Association of Realtors® offers numerous publications, programs and other resources related to fair housing and Fair Housing Month. Although it may be too late to coordinate or participate in some activities for this year, you may want to consider planning now for next year.
The Community and Public Affairs Division of NAR publish Fair Housing Focus, which is distributed to state and local associations, and is also available online. You may also want to check out the official blog of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which includes posts on fair housing. And not to overlook the obvious, PARJustListed has many informative fair housing posts archived for you to review.
Although the Code of Ethics does not prohibit unequal treatment based on age, age discrimination is prohibited under Pennsylvania law. Likewise, discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited by Pennsylvania law but it is a violation of the Code of Ethics to provide unequal real estate services based on sexual orientation.
Your practice as a real estate professional is governed by several different sources, and you must be informed about all of them to keep yourself on the straight and narrow.
Doug Oberholser, Esq. is an attorney with Caldwell & Kearns and serves as general counsel to PAR. He routinely provides advice and counsel to real estate licensees as one of the voices of the PAR Legal Hotline. A substantial portion of his practice is dedicated to providing counsel on real estate matters and representing real estate salespersons and brokers in civil lawsuits. He may be reached at realcompliance.com