• Links go to full, non-mobile site.
Follow Us on FacebookFollow Us on TwitterFollow Us on YouTubeFollow Us on LinkedIn


    Fair Housing: Choose Your Words and Actions Carefully

    Are you well-versed in Federal Fair Housing laws? Or could you use a refresher? Now is a great time to brush up on your knowledge of Federal Fair Housing laws and ensure your advertising and listing data are within the parameters of fair housing guidelines. Read on for some pointers.

    Share it:
    Share Share Share Share

    In Fair Housing, Perception is Reality

    The Fair Housing Act prohibits any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap, familial status. Some states and municipalities add other protected classes, such as gender and source of Income.

    Practically speaking, any word or statement that may be perceived to limit a buyer’s choices or indicate a preference based on their protected class should be avoided, when advertising a property. While you may not intend to indicate a preference or limitation, even a client’s perception may be construed as discriminatory. TREND’s restricted word list was created to help you avoid problems with perception.

    Some Fair Housing Do’s & Don’ts

    You want to be sure that your remarks and marketing information are worded in such a way that it doesn’t imply any preference, exclusion or limitations based on any protected class. Here are some quick pointers that can help you better consider the dos and don’ts of the fair housing act in regards to advertising a property.

    Race, Color, National Origin:

    Use of words describing the housing, the current or potential residents, or the neighbours or neighbourhood in racial or ethnic terms will create liability under this section.

    Allowed: Dutch Colonial Home, French doors, White kitchen cabinets

    Not allowed: Integrated neighbourhood, Private community, Hispanic community, Whites only


    Advertisements which use the legal name of an entity which contains religious references may indicate a religious preference.

    Allowed: Places of worship nearby, apartment complex with chapel. Secular terms or symbols such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Merry Christmas do not violate the Act.

    Not allowed: Near St Joseph’s Church, close to synagogue, or across the street from St Peter & Paul Catholic Home


    Advertisements for single family dwellings or separate units in a multi-family dwelling should not contain an explicit preference, limitation or discrimination based on sex. Terms commonly used as physical descriptions of housing do not violate the act.

    Allowed: Mother-in-law suite, bachelor apartment, Jack & Jill bathroom

    Not Allowed: Perfect for professional female; suitable for elderly man


    Real estate advertisements should not contain explicit exclusions, limitations, or other indications of discrimination based on handicap. Advertisements containing descriptions of properties, services and descriptions of accessibility features, facilities or neighborhoods, do not violate the Act.

    Allowed: Wheelchair accessible, walk-out basement, jogging trails, walk to bus stop, wheelchair ramp

    Not allowed: no wheelchairs, crippled, able-bodied, ideal for active, healthy person, not wheelchair accessible

    (Note: Advertisements describing the conduct required of residents ("non-smoking", "sober") do not violate the Act.

    Familial Status:

    Advertisements may not state an explicit preference, limitation or discrimination based on familial status, number or ages of children, or indicate a preference for adults, couples or singles.

    Allowed: Statements like, Cozy three-bedroom bungalow, near shops, restaurants, public transportation and children welcome

    Not allowed: great for empty nesters, great singles neighborhood or limit of 2 children. ‘Adults only’ is also not allowed, unless the property is specifically designated as housing for older persons.

    Avoid potential fair housing violations

    When advertising a property, you want to highlight all the positive attributes of the home and not who you think may be best suited for the home. Describing the characteristics of potential buyers or owners may overstep the boundaries of fair housing guidelines. It’s best to stick to the property description and nearby amenities. Keep it simple and when in doubt, leave it out!

    Rose-Marie Lucas • Policy Resource Specialist

    Rose-Marie joined TREND in May 2001 as coordinator for the Industry Relations Department. She is currently the Policy Resource Specialist, and is responsible for managing escalated compliance concerns and providing editorial contributions. Meet more TREND staff...

    Share it:
    Share Share Share Share

    1 - 1 of 1 Comment
    Erika Douglas
    4/25/2016 1:04 AM

    Thank you, I enjoyed reading this and the restricted word attachment was a bonus!

    How Can We Help?
    Support Center
    Mon. - Fri. 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
    Sat. - Sun. 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Phone: 1-844-55-BRIGHT
    Fax: 610-783-4699
    Email: Send us an email
    Bright MLS
    P.O. Box 37093
    Baltimore, MD 21297-3093