Realtor View: Buyers, renters: Are you being treated fairly?

April 19, 2020

April is National Fair Housing Month. And while the real estate industry, like so many other industries across the country, is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot turn our backs on history and the important place to which it has led us.

Fifty-two years ago, on April 11, 1968 — just seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law. The Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, family status or disability, is part of that law.

Coronavirus or not, I’d like to tell you that we no longer need laws to protect home buyers and renters from discrimination, but unfortunately, we’re not there yet.

How widespread is housing discrimination in the 21st century? Fair housing organizations receive close to 30,000 complaints each year, according to the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), a coalition of privately run fair housing groups. Yet, testing suggests there are many more instances of discrimination—the NFHA estimates about 3.7 million annually.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has conducted thousands of tests in recent years. HUD uses housing organizations that send testers out to view for-sale and rental properties as a means of determining whether landlords, lenders, agents, and others in the real estate community treat protected classes differently.

Housing discrimination takes many forms, but here are a few real-world scenarios:

• An owner or landlord falsely tells you that his property or unit is unavailable because of your religion;

• An agent only shows…