April is Fair Housing Month. Show your commitment to fair housing and equal housing protection this month and throughout the year. REALTORS® need to be sure they follow federal, state, local and fair housing guidelines when providing real estate brokerage services. Here are some tips and resources to help.
1. Equal Opportunity Housing encompasses more than the Fair Housing Act
- Fair Housing Act – Signed into federal law in 1968, the Fair Housing Act makes discrimination illegal in the sale, lease or rental of housing, or making housing otherwise unavailable, because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, familial status.
- Americans with Disabilities Act – Title III of the 1990 law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of public accommodation and commercial facilities.
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act – The 1974 law makes discrimination unlawful with respect to any aspect of a credit application on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because all or part of the applicant’s income derives from any public assistance program.
- State and Local Laws – It is also important to check local guidelines as there are state and local laws prohibiting discrimination against additional classes not covered by federal law. For example:
- In Illinois, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, military status, age, order of protection status, marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, unfavorable military discharge and physical and mental disability.
- In Chicago and Cook County, Section 8 voucher holders are included in the source of income protected class under the city and county human rights ordinances.
- Some municipalities, such as Naperville and Champaign, have city ordinances that contain more protected classes.
2. The REALTOR® Code of Ethics addresses fair housing
Under Article 10 it states: “REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
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, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.
REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
3. Questions about service and emotional support animals a perennial top fair housing topic
Illinois REALTORS® routinely fields questions related to tenants who have service or emotional support animals, and whether the landlord can deny an otherwise qualified applicant on that basis. The general answer to that question, is ‘no.’ A person with a service or emotional support animal cannot be denied housing on that basis. The landlord or property manager could face a fair housing complaint case. A service or emotional support animal, when it comes to housing, is not a pet. Therefore, “no pet” policies and pet deposits do not apply. The landlord or property manager can charge the terminating tenant for any actual damages caused by the animal, after the fact.
Find a HUD memo and other resources on the topic: www.IllinoisRealtors.org/blog/fair-housing-and-service-or-emotional-support-animals. Read more about service animals and other fair housing questions, including credit history and federal Section 8 or housing choice voucher programs: www.IllinoisRealtors.org/blog/commemorating-fair-housing-understanding-current-legal-issues
4. Illinois Department of Human Rights offers guidebook on serving the disabled
Learn more about the adaptations that must be made in housing for persons with disabilities and their family members with the downloadable guidebook, “Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications: A Guide for Housing Professionals.” The guidebook, released in 2018 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, aims to eliminate housing discrimination, promote economic opportunity and create more diverse and inclusive communities. bit.ly/RA-RMGuidebook
5. You can find additional fair housing resources online
Fair housing resources, links and videos from Illinois REALTOR® – www.IllinoisRealtors.org/FairHousing
Illinois Human Rights Statute – bit.ly/IL_HumanRightsAct
Fair housing resources from National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) – www.NAR.realtor/fair-housing