Advertising your services to a broad audience helps your business succeed, but intentionally or unintentionally creating discriminatory advertisements can not only harm your business, but also your reputation. It’s imperative that real estate professionals ensure their advertisements comply with the Fair Housing Act, and do not express a preference for certain characteristics or exclude individuals based on a protected class. An advertisement should not express, for example, a preference for buyers or renters that do not have children or a requirement that clients speak English.
Keep in mind that the Fair Housing Act’s definition of advertising is broad, and includes almost everything written or verbal that relates to the provision of real estate-related services. Items such as online advertisements, newspaper advertisements, brochures, pictures, TV or radio ads, and speech will fall within the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on discriminatory advertising. This prohibition extends to housing that may be otherwise afforded an exemption from other fair housing obligations, such as owner-occupied housing or multifamily housing with four or fewer units.
Before you create your next advertisement, incorporate these best practices to keep your advertisements in compliance with the Fair Housing Act:
- Focus on the property and its amenities, not on your “ideal” buyer or renter.
- Do not make statements that have the effect of excluding individuals of a protected class from your advertising initiative.
- Avoid restricting your advertisements from only reaching certain individuals or audiences by, for example, using platform features that allow advertisers to restrict who sees the advertisements based on certain characteristics like race, religion or age.
- If you use pictures of people in your advertisements, make sure the advertisement includes individuals reflective of the population in the area where the advertisement is placed.
- Include the phrase “Equal Housing Opportunity” or the fair housing logo in your advertisements. Not only will this signify your commitment to fair housing to your audience, but HUD will also consider this language when determining your fair housing compliance efforts.
- Be familiar with applicable local and state fair housing that may afford even broader protections.