Mesa Community College REA 281
Principles of Real Estate Law study materials

Issues in Fair Housing:
Trace Fair Housing Laws back to the Civil War

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.

Discussion Questions

Notice how the same issues that divided the North and South during the Civil War still divide us today. The North wanted an urban lifestyle that depended on government building roads, enforcing statutes, and managing commerce; the South wanted an agrarian lifestyle where government stayed out of people's business. That is still what distinguishes a liberal from a libertarian or a conservative. Try this quiz:

In Civil War times, the Republicans were more sympathetic to civil rights issues; the Democrats were pro-slavery.

The Missouri Compromise - This page at Wikipedia shows a time-lapse map of the United States, showing which were free and which were slave, see: Wikipedia Missouri Compromise page.

* Before the Civil War, every state and territory had free blacks. Some states considered the citizens and land owning blacks could vote in some states.

* The Taney decision in the Dred Scott case took away the freedom of all blacks, in all the states and territories. He based his decision on his belief that blacks were inferior. Taney's decision attacked the Missouri Compromise and ruled that any of the territories could establish constitutions that allowed slavery. This was the main issue that divided Douglas and Lincoln when Douglas beat Lincoln for the Senate in 1858, and the presidential race of 1860, where Lincoln won because the Democratic part was divided. Lincoln was sworn in as president by Justice Taney, then delivered a long speech decrying Taney's views in the Dred Scott decision.

* Lincoln took office as president and the Civil War started within a month.

* The soldiers in the Civil War were not fighting for slavery or against slavery. They were fighting to preserve their way of life. The North wanted to preserve the Union and the South wanted to protect their agrarian lifestyle and not be bound to big government. Ironically, the Confederate government imposed a tax and conscription to propagate the Civil War.

* After the war ended, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and supported the thirteenth amendment granting citizenship to blacks. Lincoln gave a speech praising the thirteenth amendment. He was killed three days later.

* President Johnson (Lincoln's VP) was against civil rights and did everything he could to stop it. He vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, but Congress overrode his veto. Then Congress passed the fourteenth amendment to prevent future presidential vetoes, granting citizenship, and overruling the Dred Scott decision. Johnson opposed the fourteenth amendment and was impeached, but he survived impeachment by one vote. The next president, Ulysses S. Grant, signed the fourteenth amendment into law and championed civil rights.

* In 1896 the Supreme Court case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, substituted equality with the doctrine of "separate but equal."

* The next president, Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican, followed Andrew Johnson and served from 1869-1977; Grant led Reconstruction by signing and enforcing Congressional civil rights legislation. However, his administration was marked with scandal. He wrote his memoirs and died at 63. As a general-in-chief of Union forces in the Civil War, he had won the war and he accepted the unconditional surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House.

* The election of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden was the most disputed presidential election in American history. Tilden won the popular vote and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165, with 20 votes in dispute. Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina each claimed both candidate had won, while in Oregon one elector was declared illegal and replaced. Tilden only needed one elector to win, while Hayes needed all twenty. A bitter legal and political battle followed, and Hayes ended up with all twenty disputed electoral college votes, giving him the victory. As part of the battle (many historians believe), Hayes agreed to what is called the Compromise of 1877, in which Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

Flash Forward to the 1950s

Civil rights for blacks were finally established through a series of lawsuits challenging school segregation, under the influence Supreme Court justices Earl Warren, who served as Chief Justice from 1953-1969, and the first black justice, Thurgood Marshall, who served from 1967-1991.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) established that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," overturning Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The Warren Court's decision was unanimous (9-0), so it was a powerful conclusion that has stood the test of time. The updated Civil Rights Acts followed, including the Fair Housing Laws, fairness in lending laws, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Equality is the law of the land now, but it took two hundred years to get where we are today. To find out more about the history, go to the Fair Housing Timeline - click here.

jpg   Fair Housing Timeline

This timeline traces three threads in the history of Fair Housing laws: the Constitution, federal laws, and Supreme Court cases. Click here.

Click here for an index of all
Fair Housing information at this site index