Fair Housing Legal Line Questions

Fair Housing Legal Line Questions

In the spirit of Fair Housing Month, we have compiled some commonly asked questions regarding Fair Housing Laws and REALTOR® rules.


Q1 – I am a property manager for a 55+ community. Can I target advertisements by age without violating Fair Housing?

A1 – If the community is a true 55+ community (meaning it was legally established and continues to legally function as one), then you are permitted to advertise specifically to 55+ people. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. First, you should make sure that your advertisement doesn’t inadvertently express an additional preference beyond age. For example, you wouldn’t want to advertise to “active people 55+” because that indicates a preference for individuals without a disability. Additionally, practically speaking, targeting ads by age may not be helpful to your business, as the 55+ individual could be using the assistance of a younger person to locate a home.

Q2 – What do I do if I think my client is acting discriminatorily?

A2 – Your response to potential discrimination should vary depending on the situation. Salespeople and associate brokers should always inform their qualifying broker of any discriminatory behavior and seek guidance about how to proceed. In general, in situations of potential discrimination that you think could be an honest misunderstanding, talk to your client about why you cannot fulfill the request. It is possible the client did not realize that what they were asking for could run afoul of fair housing. In slightly more serious cases, you should do the same thing, but also refer to the fact that your contract with them can be terminated for discriminatory behavior, so that the consumer realizes the seriousness of the conversation. Finally, in cases of clear discrimination, take quick and decisive action. Inform the consumer that your contract with them is being terminated due to discriminatory behavior (preferably in writing, identifying the behavior in question) and take down the listing and any advertisements. If the discriminatory behavior harmed another consumer, do not attempt to “cover up” your former client’s discriminatory behavior and be sure to comply with any requests by HUD for information. Document everything that happened in the client’s file and maintain the file for future reference.

Q3 – Can I charge a pet deposit for a service animal?

A3 – No. Service animals and emotional support animals are not pets, so a pet deposit cannot be charged for them. You can, however, charge for any damage caused by an assistance animal beyond normal wear and tear.

Q4 – I find that families with several small children tend to be noisy and disrupt downstairs neighbors, leading to complaints. I would like to enact a policy to prevent this. Can I require families with small children to live on the first floor?

A4 – No. Imposing different requirements on people with children than the requirements imposed on people without children is a violation of familial status protection.