3 Issues That Could Expand Fair Housing Law


Shifting societal values and the ever-changing world of technology are creating new legal challenges that the federal Fair Housing Act must address. Emerging issues, such as the rights of immigrants and transgender people, could mean the law will be constantly remolded for years to come, said freelance journalist Amy Swinderman, who writes about financial, legal, and real estate topics, during a webinar Wednesday called “Fair Housing in the Era of Big Data and Online Marketing.”

The webinar was sponsored by Location Certified, a listing tool real estate professionals can use to display public data for neighborhood crime stats, school ratings, and other information on their listings.

Swinderman recounted a few recent news events and issues that could have a lasting impact on fair housing law in the future.

  1. In September, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released guidelines saying that people with limited English proficiency are a protected class under the category of national origin. Therefore, housing may not be denied to anyone because of a diminished capacity to communicate in English. As REALTOR® Magazine reported earlier this year, some real estate professionals warn cultural shifts and pending immigration reform will lead to new fair housing issues, and the industry will need to provide more education about these changes.
  2. Though sexual orientation and gender identity are not specified as protected classes in the federal fair housing law, HUD has said that under the category of sex, consumers are protected from discrimination based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes. So for example, landlords cannot deny housing to someone who does not behave according to how they believe someone of their gender should act. This month, HUD went a step further, saying transgender and non-gender-conforming individuals cannot be denied access to single-gender housing, such as emergency shelters.
  3. Technologies such as automated scoring or screening services for rental applications can be deemed discriminatory under fair housing law, depending on the criteria set for accepting applicants. For example, if you set up the system to immediately deny applicants with a credit score below a certain level, that action could disproportionately affect certain groups of people.

“The jury is still very much out on these modern-day issues,” Swinderman said during Wednesday’s webinar, “and the Fair Housing Act will very much be in flux for the next few years. … As the law changes, it’s important for real estate professionals to lend their voice to the process.”

—REALTOR® Magazine Daily News


Source: NAR – Real Estate News
3 Issues That Could Expand Fair Housing Law

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