Window to the Law: NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan

Window to the Law: NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan

Jan 1, 2021
4:05
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Common scenarios like providing a buyer with school information or taking a pocket listing can open up real estate professionals to potential discrimination issues. Find out how NAR is addressing these scenarios and more with its ACT! Initiative.

NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan, commonly referred to as “ACT!”, stands for Accountability, Culture Change and Training.  Joining me today to talk about ACT!, as well as best practices for complying with fair housing laws, is NAR’s Vice President of Political Advocacy, Bryan Greene.

Bryan, under the ACT! Plan, NAR recently released a new fair housing training called Fairhaven.  What should members know?

Bryan: Fairhaven is a new simulation training that requires users to respond to life-like scenarios where housing discrimination can occur. The training provides users with customized feedback based on the user’s decisions to help real estate professionals enhance their fair housing awareness.

Lesley: The initial reviews of Fairhaven have been overwhelmingly positive and the training is available to REALTORS® free of charge at https://fairhaven.realtor/.

ACT! also sets out to help REALTORS® provide school information while avoiding fair housing pitfalls. To be clear, providing school information is not illegal under the Fair Housing Act, but it can be a slippery slope when reference to the quality of schools is used, for example, as a proxy for area demographics or to steer clients away from a particular area.  

One best practice here is for REALTORS® to provide clients with objective data, and to avoid substituting their perceptions of a community for hard evidence about the quality of a school.

Bryan: That’s right.

REALTORS® can also always direct people to third-party resources.

We also recommend that real estate professionals direct clients to school district administrators to get objective multi-faceted information about area schools. Clients can also reach out to people with first-hand knowledge of a school, such as parents with children in the school district.

Lesley:  That’s good advice. Shifting focus. Let’s talk about pocket listings.  While pocket listings do not violate the Fair Housing Act, they do raise long-standing concerns about their potential to be used in a discriminatory manner. For example, using a pocket listing to market only to people of a certain race, raises clear fair housing concerns.  NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy, adopted last year, helps address these concerns by requiring that all publicly marketed listings be entered into the MLS within one business day.  But, what advice do you have for REALTORS® who continue to use pocket listings, or office exclusives, to sell property?

Bryan: Certainly, REALTORS® should never use a pocket listing or office-exclusive to restrict access to a property for a discriminatory purpose.  For example, I recently read a story where a real estate agent used a pocket listing to limit showings to people of a particular religion.  After only one potential buyer came to the property, the seller fired the agent, and hired a new one.  That agent placed the listing on the MLS, and sold the property at full asking within a month.

Not only did the first agent fail to serve the best interests of the client, as required by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and state license law, the agent’s actions violated the Fair Housing Act.

While a pocket listing may be appropriate in some circumstances, generally speaking, putting a listing on the MLS not only best serves a client’s interests, it also furthers fair housing by ensuring a listing is available to all potential buyers.

Lesley:  Thank you, Bryan. These fair housing conversations are always ongoing.

To learn more about ACT!, the Fairhaven training, and fair housing issues in general, check out these resources.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of Window to the Law.

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