Mesa Community College REA 281
Principles of Real Estate Law study materials
Issues in Fair Housing:
Advertise with Fair Housing in Mind
You must display the Fair Housing logo on all advertising, including business cards, letterheads, websites, flyers, and brochures. Ads with human models must feature people of different races, ads must appear in publications of general circulation, and brokerages must display the Fair Housing poster.*
In addition, the language of the ad must not discriminate against any of the protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
In addition to the Fair Housing laws per se, real estate professionals must observe housing development by-laws; local zoning ordinances, restrictions, and disclosure requirements; relevant business and administrative concers, and any deed restrictions (except racial deed restrictions, which were overturned in the Supreme Court's 1948 Shelly v. Kramer decision, and 1968 Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. decision). This class will also touch on fairness in affordable housing, elder housing, and review the guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Advertising The Equal Housing Opportunity logo must be displayed on all real estate advertising, flyers, promotional materials, business cards, websites, and blogs. Ads must feature human models of different races, advertising must appear in publications of general circulation to reach the community at large. Brokerages must display the Fair Housing poster. Link for brokers, agents: get logos, posters, pamphlets, videos, etc., from the HUD site - click here.
Remedies Fair Housing complaints go to a state administrative law judge, an attorney. Victims have one year to file a complaint. If it is a federal offense, victims have two years to file a complaint.
Penalties Fines per offenses under an administrative law judge range from $10,000 to $50,000 and result in loss of license; federal offenses range from $25,000 to $100,000 and result in the loss of license.
Exemptions Private owners selling their own properties are exempt from certain provisions of the Fair Housing laws. The saying "four becomes Fair" means that anything less than four units is exempt. The owner of a four-plex must comply with Fair Housing provisions. If a broker is involved in any transaction, parties must comply with Fair Housing. Unlicensed persons who buy and sell real estate for a living are considered dealers, and must comply with Fair Housing rules. Even owners who are exempt from Fair Housing laws must still avoid discriminatory language in their for sale signs and any other advertising. Religious organizations can discriminate based on religion. Private clubs can discriminate if they do not use any public funds. Housing for older persons is exempt from certain provisions.
How to Comply with Fair Housing Guidelines
When you write an ad for your listings, emphasize the features of the property. Never try to describe the buyer. For example, don't write: "Perfect for retired couple," if it is not officially a retirement community. Don't write: "Great family neighborhood," because it seems to exclude people with no children. Don't write: "Walk to shopping," because it excludes people who cannot walk. Don't write: "Near Indian grocery store," because it seems to identify the neighborhood with a particular national origin.
Class discussion: Do the following descriptions comply with Fair Housing? All of these descriptions come from the book, "Where to Live in Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun," published in 2006 and distributed to the free racks that hold the real estate magazines. I bought my copy at a bookstore when I was a new agent, but was repulsed. Although I tried to get attention for the Fair Housing violations throughout this book, nobody would listen to me. Let's discuss these excerpts from the book and whether they violate Fair Housing laws.
"Arcadia has always been one of the bastions of old Phoenix money. That's changed a bit in the past decade or so, but it's still quiet money. Judges, doctors, law partners, and corporate chieftains all call Arcadia home. The difference between Arcadia and Paradise Valley is that Paradise Valley tends to have more wealthy people who are retired. Arcadia people get up in the morning and go run things. Arcadia wives go to Pilates at The Village sports club, then run the canal," p. 63.
Would you feel comfortable looking for a home here if you were not a judge, doctor, law partner, or corporate chieftain [is chieftain a racist word?]. People (meaning men) "run things," while women "run the canal"?
"Encanto-Palmcroft residents tend to be in their 50s or 60s and at the top of their earning capacities. CEOs, doctors, and successful business owners live here, but the personalities are more eclectic than Arcadia. Your neighbor might be a wealthy Republican, as in Arcadia, but he enjoys collecting rare maps instead of golfing. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist was one prominent Palmcroft resident. Many residents have private security patrols watching over their precious homes," p. 52.
If you were a Democrat, would you feel comfortable looking for a home in this area?
"The bright lights of the Camelback corridor [East Phoenix] are drawing a hip crowd away from the new cool of Scottsdale towards the original cool of Phoenix. There are sun-spotted, bolo tie-wearing old Phoenicians who don't know what to make of their new black-clad neighbors who come home at four a.m. There is a significant Hispanic population: piñata makers, taco shops, carnicerias, and tire shops line some streets. They're surprised to see young white couples wearing Abercrombie & Fitch at the Ranch Market. East Phoenix has the Valley's largest gay population, mainly in the Roosevelt, Coronado, and Willo historic neighborhoods. North of Camelback Road is quiet, old money," p. 59.
Do "piñata makers, taco shops, carnicerias, and tire shops" define a neighborhood as "Hispanic"? If the the "bolo tie-wearing old" folks don't know what to make of the "black-clad" night owls, what must they think of the large gay population?
"This [West Phoenix] is a blue-collar area. Those without blue collars have blue teardrops tattooed below their eyes. What the *%&# are you looking at?" p. 71.
How would you feel about looking for a home in this area, after reading this description? Do you think you would feel differently, depending on whether you have tattoos, or would this be offensive to anyone?
"Mesa Grande [West Mesa] has always been a working class area. There is a sizable population of Hispanics for whom Spanish is their first language. Dobson Ranch residents are attorneys, business owners, and white-collar chip jockeys. Many of them have lived in the community since it was built in the early 1970s," p. 110.
How many stereotypes can you count in this description? Do buyers have to be a certain race to live in Dobson Ranch?
"Central Scottsdale is undeniably upper middle-class. Here you'll find grandmothers in tennis whites, real estate power women, developers who have built the rest of the Valley, and moms who wouldn't be caught dead wearing sweatpants to the grocery store. There is a sizable Muslim population working in the airpark tech industry and living in the area; Arizona's largest mosque is in central Scottsdale. Retirees still flock to south central Scottsdale to live in townhome complexes, although fewer and fewer every year," p. 116.
What do you find most offensive about this description?
"North Scottsdale is overwhelmingly white and rich. The North Scottsdale stereotype is a blonde trophy wife racing to Pilates class in a Mercedes-Benz Roadster (red convertible) barking orders at her interior designer on her cell. There are also the Jaguar-and-golf retirees, many from the Midwest and East Coast. New money has a substantial foothold in North Scottsdale; afternoon day-care pickup can look like Playboy tryouts," p. 120.
Based on this description, do you think working women still on their first marriage would fit in here? What about people of other races?
"Gilbert residents tend to be in management, the professions, sales, or office work of one sort or another. They're young families, starting out; the median age is 30. They earn good salaries, between $50,000 and $100,000. . . . Gilbert is a conservative town. People get up and go to church on Sunday at about the same time half of Tempe is going to bed. Gilbert is a soccer-mom and football-dad country: quite, clean, and risk-free. Gilbert has a sizable Mormon population," pp. 138-139.
If you were a liberal atheist, or any religion besides Christian (especially Mormon), and did not have children who played soccer or football, would you feel welcome here?
"Tempe people tend to be liberal, due to the university's influence. It was the first Valley city to have a gay mayor. Democratic presidential candidates often hold rallies in Tempe. Organic grocery stores are popular," p. 145.
When did ASU become a "liberal" college? Are Republicans tolerated in Tempe?
"Chandler's residents tend to be young (median age 30). Thanks to the thousands of high-tech jobs in the city, they're also well-off. The average household income is $71,456, higher than wealthy Scottsdale's median income of $62,000. The typical resident is employed, pretty well-paid, with a couple of kids, owns their own home and is community-involved, and likes to have a lot of fun. Chandler folks are active outdoors. There are a lot of horse properties down south, Harleys abound on weekends, and sports are popular. A Chandler executive is much more likely to take his big boat to Lake Powell or Havasu than to play golf. Demographics follow the rest of the state - it's mostly Anglo, with the next largest group Hispanic - with one exception. Chandler has a comparatively large Asian population. A Chinese Cultural Center was built at Ray and Alma School Roads. Foreigners on multi-year work visas live and buy homes in Chandler," pp. 134-135.
If you did not have children, did not want to participate in the community, and could not afford a horse, a Harley, or a big boat, would you feel welcome here? If you were a foreigner on a multi-year visa, do you think there is anyplace else that would welcome you, once you found out this is where people like you live?
The book contained many more outrageous examples of bias, but these were some that stood out to me.
Class discussion: Are these descriptions legal according to current Fair Housing laws? Why do you think nobody ever got into trouble for publishing this book? What could happen to you if you quoted a discriminatory statement from this book in your own listings, signs, or flyers?
Stick to the Features of the Property
Class discussion: To avoid going afoul of the Fair Housing laws, which of the following descriptions would you avoid? Which would be perfectly acceptable? (All of these are from the book, Where to Live in Phoenix.)
Arcadia - "The traditional Arcadia home is a four or five bedroom 1950s or 1960s ranch surrounded by citrus trees. Swimming pools, old-growth landscaping, and enormous lots are the norm," pp. 63-64. [How big is enormous?]
Encanto-Palmcroft - "Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival mansions dominate the area," p. 52.
East Phoenix - "Golf course estates and 3,000 square-foot plus showplaces sit on desert ridges and astride horse properties," p. 60.
West Mesa - "Mesa Grande homes and townhouses range from the early 1950s to the 1970s. Solidly-built post-war ranches with mature landscaping are a great value," p. 110. [How great is great?]
Central Scottsdale - "McCormick Ranch, a former cattle and horse ranch, was the city's first master-planned community. It's very green with mature trees, lawns, and tropical palms and sports 130 acres of man-made lakes for sailing and fishing, together with two 18-hole golf courses," p. 117. [Does "very" enhance how green it is?]
North Scottsdale - "Santa Fe contemporary is a popular architectural style, with its clean, timeless desert lines," p. 121.
Gilbert - "There is a wide variety of stucco-and-tile with big living rooms and garages, but stucco-and-tile is your only choice," p. 139.
Tempe - "South of the university, are frame, stucco, and block homes built in the 1960s and 1970s. Most of these neighborhoods are a mixed bag, at best," p. 145. [What do they mean by "mixed bag"?]
Chandler - "Chandler homes are stucco-and-tile of varying degrees. Most have swimming pools and attractive desert landscaping, but do not expect aesthetically significant architecture," p. 135. [Let the buyer decide. Some people love stucco and tile homes.]
West Phoenix - "Big clean brick ranches with clipped lawns, oleander hedges, and swimming pools, Art Moderne bungalows and English Cottage styles," pp. 71-72. [How big is big? How clean is clean?]
West Phoenix, continued: "South of Camelback the area goes medieval in a hurry. Junk stacked on porches, laundry hanging in carports, shopping cards in yards, BEWARE OF THE DOG signs - it gets even worse closer to Interstate 10, where aforementioned features actually characterize the better areas. These neighborhoods can look a little sleepy during the day. If somehow you've become convinced to buy here, drive down to the property at 10 p.m. and have another look. Make sure you have 911 on speed dial and the phone in your hand," p. 72. [For real? Shouldn't somebody get sued for writing this and distributing it like it was a guide to Valley real estate?]
Phrases to Avoid (may violate Fair Housing laws)
"exclusive area" (who is excluded?)
"executive-level property" (do you have to be a CEO?)
"elite neighborhood" (does this bar non-elites?)
"young families welcome" (are others not welcome?)
"mature area" (unless it is designated as such)
"top schools" (by what standard?)
"conservative neighborhood" (liberals not welcome?)
Other Phrases to Avoid (not a violation of Fair Housing)
"new carpet" (only if it was put in yesterday)
"perfect condition" (no resale house is perfect)
"new kitchen" (how much of it is new?)
"Jacuzzi tub" (is it a Jacuzzi or another brand?)
"Anderson windows" (are they made by Anderson or another company?)
"Sub-Zero refrigerator" (is it, or is it just a fancy refrigerator?)
"large lot, room to add on" (have you checked building ordinances, deed restrictions?)
"potential as a bed and breakfast" (have you checked neighbor opposition, zoning laws?)
"backs to a greenbelt" (is this a dedicated preserve or private property that may be developed?)
"add a second story - great views" (is this feasible?)
"unobstructed water views" (will the views always remain unobstructed?)
"large lot ready to sub-divide" (did you check with city planners?)
Grammar and Other Considerations
In addition to Fair Housing issues, let's take a look at our grammar. Learn to avoid the following annoying grammatical habits.
Overuse of contractions - would've, could've, should've, hadn't, wouldn't, shouldn't, she'd, he'd, they'd, and other awkward contractions get annoying. Spell out the two words.
Negatives and double negatives - avoid double negative statements, such as, "Don't put off calling me." Say, "Call now," or "Call me." "Don't overlook the outdoor patio" is confusing. Say, "Be sure to see the outdoor patio."
Capitalization - When should you use ALL CAPS? Hint: caps imply urgency, aggression, or hype. When do you capitalize the first letter of a word? Hint: only capitalize proper nouns, not buzz words. Too many sentences like, "This three bedroom house is a Horse Property!" get on people's nerves.
Homonyms and other words that get confused - ad, add; their, they're, there; its, it's; two, to, too; further, farther; for, four, fore; your, you're; who's, whose; affect, effect; loan, lend. Use a spell checker, but proof read for items that slip through because you are using the wrong word. The English language has more than seven hundred sets of homonyms.*
Malapropisms - humorous misuse of words, such as a "blabbering brook," "unparalyzed performance," "remorseful speaker," "plummeted to the top," "R-30 infiltration," and so on. Carefully proofread your writing because these mistakes are hard for the writer to notice.
Trick words - alright is two words (all right), but altogether, always, and already are fine as one word; alot (always two words); accommodations (note two c's, two m's). The English language is complex, with exceptions to all the rules.
Punctuation - do not overuse exclamation points; place a period or comma inside quotation marks (British style is outside); do not overuse semicolons and colons; do not overuse parentheses or brackets; do not overuse dashes.
Useless words - very, a lot, sort of, kind of, sometimes, almost, usually, etc. Leave them out of the sentence and see what happens.
Puffing - avoid non-descriptive, hyperbolic words like gorgeous, dramatic, lush, intimate, fine, big, large, expansive, sizable, interesting, desirable, unique, stellar, fabulous, wonderful, enormous, gigantic, one of a kind, etc.
Ineffective vs. Effective Descriptions
Ineffective: Stellar views, gorgeous interiors, and nice yard.
Effective: Views of Downtown Phoenix, vaulted ceilings, landscape includes five mature acacia trees.
Ineffective (and inappropriate): Best schools in town!!
Effective: Located in the Tempe School District.
Ineffective (and inappropriate): Trendy student district.
Effective: Adjacent to Mill Avenue shops.
Ineffective: Wow! You will love this place!
Effective: Chandler 3 br., 2 ba., corner lot.
Here are some actual listings remarks from the ARMLS:
Gorgeous home with breath taking views!! Master has LG walk-in closet, seperate tub & shower. Formal Living rm & Dining. 3 Car Garage. Kitchen opens to LG family rm w/great views.(located on wash lot w/view fencing) and gas fireplace. Tile flows thru traffic areas plus kitchen, family rm & baths. 2' wood blinds, patio door w/verticals. 2 LG secondary bedrooms w/Jack & Jill bath. Huge den w/double doors! Vacant and Ready to Move in!!! Go for it!
OUTSTANDING AND VERY IMMACULATE 3 BEDROOM 2 BATH HOME! FORMAL LIVING/DINING PLUS A FAMILY ROOM OPEN TO SPACIOUS KITCHEN WITH A PANTRY. LIGHT AND BRIGHT HOME WITH LOVELY WINDOWS. FRENCH DOOR TO BACKYARD. DESIGNER PAINT AND BEAUTIFUL TILE. SIMPLY GORGEOUS BACKYARD WITH EXTENDED COVERED PATIO. LANDSCAPING IS 10+ AND YOU WILL WANT TO SIT AND RELAX!
Gorgeous! This home features a Huge Lot 4 bedrooms 2.5 bath, a loft that may serve as an office, Den or Play room, it has a lovely brand new tile in the right places, new beautiful neutral color carpet, new interior paint, enjoy the stunning sparkling fenced pool with a water fall in private back yard. Ceiling fans T/O, sunscreens T/O. Truly a beautiful home. A MUST SEE!
As you walk into this elegant home you are pleasantly pleased with the decorative paint throughout. Divine family room is very open to the breakast area & kitchen. In the kitchen the refrigerator does convey. Formal dining room is spacious and open to the kitchen with plenty of room for sitting area and buffet or hutch. French doors lead out to oversized backyard that could be a gorgeous lush oasis to someone with a little TLC. Upstairs has a large open loft that opens to bedrooms.
Class discussion: let's rewrite these remarks without the purple prose and gramatical errors.
Fair Housing information at this site