Fair Housing and Advertising

Fair Housing and Advertising

fhco_logoFollowing is a guest post by Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

I recently reread a 2009 report produced by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) on how internet housing ads perpetuate discrimination. As we can attest from our own office’s investigations, illegal ads are prolific online, decades after the Fair Housing Act made them illegal. Following are some highlights from the report.

There is no disagreement that landlords, real estate agents, and others who create and place these discriminatory ads are legally liable for violating the Fair Housing Act. In passing the Fair Housing Act in 1968, Congress wanted to hold publishers responsible for third parties as a way of eliminating the problem most efficiently.

Every day in the United States, thousands of people view rental advertisements that illegally deny housing to families with children and others protected by the federal Fair Housing Act. Although newspapers have been held liable under the Fair Housing Act for publishing discriminatory housing advertisements with statements such as “no kids,” or “couples only,” the publishers of similar ads on the internet have not been held to the same legal standard.

In order to address this disparity in the law, which holds print advertisements and online advertisements to separate and unequal standards, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) urges Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to make, print, or publish; or cause to be made, printed, or published; housing ads that discriminate, limit, or deny equal access to apartments or homes because of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, and disability. [There are, of course, additional state and locally protected classes.]

In order to comply with the Fair Housing Act, newspapers utilize screening systems to keep advertisements containing discriminatory statements from being printed. [And they’re often much more conservative than fair housing advocates are! Take a look at FHCO’s popular article, The List, for more on this and related urban legends.] However, a legal interpretation of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) holds that interactive internet providers, like Craigslist, are not publishers and therefore are not liable for violating the Fair Housing Act if discriminatory housing ads are published on their sites.

Yet it needn’t be difficult. Internet providers can implement filtering systems just as print publications can (arguably it’d be easier for them to do so) to prevent individuals from posting illegally discriminatory verbiage. Either way, whether or not a site is liable in a given situation (we feel it is), the poster most certainly is!

As a housing provider advertising residential properties, you should know that fair housing advocates such as our office, national groups, and others, periodically comb sites and publications for violations. Our advice: treat any form of advertising—whatever your role is in it—as if it falls under federal, state, and/or local fair housing laws. This includes written, printed, online, posted signs, oral statements, etc., whether free or paid.

During the past year, NFHA and [several of its members] identified more than 7,500 discriminatory ads placed by housing providers on various websites. Yet, only 1,000 complaints have been filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because both HUD and private fair housing agencies lack the staff and time to work through the cumbersome process required to identify and bring these landlords to justice.

Sadly, these ads reinforce the message to public readers that refusing to rent, sell, lend, or insure based on any of the protected classes is acceptable and even legal. What’s more, it confuses those who wish to follow the law or would be inclined to if they were better informed. All the reason for the proactive stance FHCO has always taken on education as a tool to eradicate illegal housing discrimination coupled, of course, with enforcement activities—because the battle won’t be won with a carrot alone.

The Fair Housing Act covers all advertising for the rental or sale of homes as well as advertising for home loans, homeowners/renters insurance, and any service related to housing.

Language in the Fair Housing Act and in the regulations implementing the law makes it clear that the law is also intended to prevent newspapers and other media from publishing advertisements or notices that limit housing to specific individuals or indicate a preference for certain people. The law states:
t shall be unlawful to make, print, or publish or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement with respect to the sale of rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on

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The NFHA report identified thousands of ads that violate the Fair Housing Act—in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including Portland and Bend, Oregon. As a result, the national organization filed over a thousand complaints with HUD against posters.

The most common Fair Housing Act violation that NFHA and its members found on the internet was advertising discriminating against families with children. NFHA found ads stating preferences for tenants who were “single” or “a couple of individuals.” Phrases such as “perfect for young couple” or “three adults” were found in ads for houses or apartments with multiple bedrooms. These ads indicate an illegal preference or limitation and discourage families with children from even considering contacting a landlord. [Note: this is different than occupancy standards.]

Many of the properties with such discriminatory language have multiple bedrooms, and would be ideal for families with children. Some examples of discriminatory language identified include:

  • 2BR: “Mature couple or single with no children” NY
  • 3BR: Duplex: “Christian atmosphere” IN
  • 2BR: “PERFECT FOR TWO ADULTS…seeking a maximum of two tenants” CT
  • 2BR: “Couples preferred” IL
  • 4BR: “Looking for responsible adults to enjoy home” VT

Even if these happen to be located in designated senior communities, the description of the community as an “adult community” or the advertising of “no kids allowed” is specifically disallowed by HUD.

A couple of my favorites that touch on other protected classes include:

  • “Looking for a white lady who has a car and that’s drawing a check. No children, teenagers” TN
  • “We’re trying to make cheaper rent available for able-bodied people who can do a few things for themselves.” GA

and from here in Oregon…

  • RV Hookup: “Hopefully we can find someone that is a Christian and loves God with all of their hearts” OR

Be sure you’re well informed and complying with both the letter and the spirit of fair housing laws. Schedule a fair housing class for your staff today, or ask your local association when FHCO will be offering a class through them. In the meantime, visit the newly revised Fair Housing Council of Oregon website and make full use of the information and resources posted there. Sign up for the free FHCO electronic newsletter to keep up to speed with developments in the fair housing world.

Read the full report—For Rent: No Kids! How Internet Housing Advertisements Perpetuate Discrimination.

Fair Housing and Advertising

Fair Housing Testing: What Is It?

fhco_logoFollowing is a guest post by Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.

The topic of fair housing testing strikes fear and incites anger in many within the housing industry—independent landlords and professional property managers, sales brokers, mortgage lenders, homeowners’ associations, and other housing providers. Most are very unclear what testing is, and what it isn’t.

First, let me say that as a former REALTOR®, I am well aware that the housing industry is heavily regulated. Legal issues and accompanying regulatory bodies range from licensing law to fair housing law. The Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) is not the only organization that performs testing. Those familiar with the sales world, you might recall when the Oregon Real Estate Agency (OREA) conducted audit tests a few years ago to verify that agents were explaining the then-new Agency Disclosure Pamphlet and presenting it for signature upon “first substantive contact” with a prospective client. This is one more example of testing in the industry.

What is Fair Housing Testing?
Who does it? What are the implications for you in your daily practice?

FHCO is not an enforcement agency. We do however conduct enforcement-related activities such as testing or filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or another regulatory governmental agency (such as Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries), either on our own behalf or in assisting a housing consumer who feels a fair housing violation has been committed against them. We also sometimes file lawsuits with private attorneys, especially if testing evidence supports an allegation of a fair housing violation. Each year we also assist hundreds of housing providers and consumers in resolving fair housing problems in an informal manner, to the satisfaction of both parties. A good deal of our day-to-day work focuses on education and outreach to both housing consumers and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under federal, state, and local fair housing laws (see a list of FHCO classes).

If someone contacts our office with what appears may be a fair housing allegation, we take the information and determine if it is a testable situation. Testing is used to identify ordinary business practices (of a company, an individual, etc) and these practices are usually confirmed with a series of tests. We may use testers who are not simply posing as a housing consumer, but someone who may follow a transaction through to the end and purchase a home, obtain a loan, enter into a lease agreement, etc. These folks aren’t just testers, they’re bonafide prospects currently in the market to buy/lend/lease.

We’d much rather eradicate illegal discrimination through education and making ourselves available for your questions than to “catch” you doing something wrong. Consider us a resource. Did you know that we provide testing as a fee-for-service? Organizations and firms may contract with us to see how staff or members are doing in complying with fair housing laws—the results of these tests are confidential under the terms of the contract.

We also offer a wealth of information available for housing providers on our website. A few pages likely to be of interest:
Housing Provider Information
Public Service Videos
Sample Forms
Translated Materials

Please consider supporting the work we do by joining FHCO today. Support from the housing industry is particularly important as we stand together to ensure housing for all in the spirit of fair housing laws.


Fair Housing and Advertising

Bust These Five Myths and Catapult Your Real Estate Career

beckisaltzLD-1_originalThe following is a guest blog post by Becki Saltzman, author of the forthcoming book Arousing the Buy Curious: Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals, being released in September 2013. Becki’s ideas and material are her own, and not necessarily the opinions of RMLS™ as an organization or of individual staff members.

Realty shows, economic forecasting mavens, new technology opportunists, oh my…everyone has an opinion about our delightful real estate industry. Myths are bound to develop, get repeated, and become truth-ish. Questioning and busting these truthy-isms can catapult your career. Here are some common myths that top pros love to bust—results may vary.

Myth 1: Knowing your own market is everything.

To survive as a real estate pro, it is imperative that you know the market. But now that your clients can access so much market information about you, it is no longer enough to simply know the market. You have to know and understand your business and industry. Knowing and understanding are two different things. You can know statistics inside and out and still not understand your business. For example, you can know that the market is up 6.5%, but what’s the understanding behind that? Does that mean that prices are up 6.5% this month over last month, this year over last year, or this month this year over the same month last year? Or does that mean that 6.5% more properties are sold than…when, what?



83% of top media futurists surveyed felt that a market would go up 9.3% in the future.
Courtesy of Sortafacts

Here’s some math straight out of the Arousing the Buy Curious annals.

Knowing + Telling = Turnoff
Showing + Telling = Reality show

Understanding + Telling = Getting blindsided by data

Knowing + Understanding + Showing + Telling = Real Turn-on + Data = Sold

Myth 2: All real estate is local.

This oft-repeated and catchy phrase does indeed help create a positive spin, often accurately, on bad national news. What it comes down to though, is the fact that shifts in larger markets often become shifts in local markets. If we have our heads buried too far up the ‘hood-hole that we miss national and international shifts, market changes can catch us unaware and unprepared. This sucks for our clients.



Take a gander right now at what’s happening in China. Really. Google “China” and “real estate” and “investors” and “luxury properties” and see what comes up.

Now solve this fun and snappy story problem exercise:
(So much math on this post but we got this!)

A wealthy international real estate investor walks into a showroom in New York. (Sounds like a joke, but it’s not.) He plucks down $100 million for the newly listed luxury penthouse that sits atop the CitySpire building, overlooking Central Park. Yeah, that’s the asking price inspired by international buyers producing a slew of record-breaking trophy apartment sales.


• What does that do to the average price of New York City real estate?
• How does that affect what gets spewed in the media sphere about the luxury market?
• How might that influence high-end developers, buyers, and sellers in your market?

Tip: The good developers, buyers, and sellers, are reading and thinking about local and global happenings.

Be careful not to be too much of a local yokel. Yes, it is important to understand your local market but if you keep your head buried in your own special spot, you could be surprised by what’s really happening if you pull your head out.

Myth 3: Real estate pros are not salespeople.

Speaking in front of an audience of over 400 real estate trusted advisors, facilitators, customer service specialists, and client advocates, about 22 people raised their hands when asked how many of them sold property for a living. Strangely, however, the only way that any of these excellent real estate agents and brokers got paid was when they actually…wait for it…sold property. At 5.5% (22 out of 400) this was clearly not the 80/20 rule in full force.

I get it. Sales has such a sad stink on it that it’s no wonder it’s a four letter word starting with an S. Most MBA programs no longer even have classes on sales. But here is the truth-ish:



93% of what comes out of our lips or what is pecked and clicked involves some effort at enticing, cajoling, persuading, convincing, or influencing eardrums or eyeballs. One could call it Arousing the Buy Curious. I do.
Courtesy of Sortafacts

The art of persuasion comes easy to some. The ones who do it best know that to do it well and to reap the benefits over a long period of time requires a deep understanding of and appreciation for the best interest of the persuaded. It’s ethical, helpful, and good for both professionals and clients.

For those whom the art is less natural, there is a science to the art of ethical persuasive communication. It is backed by cool lab experiments, regression analyses, and all kinds of other sexy mind science. The first step is coming to terms with being what you are hired to do: sell.

If you don’t agree (many won’t and I still love you), leave a comment.

Myth 4: It is best to analyze our business by our successes.

Analyzing successes feels so good that it just feels right. It’s a form of…well, never mind. Even our clients like to hear about our successes because that makes them feel smart choosing successful us. Thinking about our failures in a private, non-judgmental and analytical way over a period of market dips and swings can help us maintain the protagonist role in the story of our lives and truly be smarter about our business…and better at it.

Time is often the thumb on the scale of our real estate successes. Remember how proud we were to win the bidding wars of 2006? Remember how sheepish we were about the result of those very same battles in 2010? Remember how great we felt about winning a similar war…yesterday?

Here’s where a bit of sexy mind science creeps in. We have biases. This, unfortunately and embarrassingly (at least for me), is scientifically proven. Here are two biggies:

The Self-Serving Bias: We grab credit for our successes and give away credit for our failures. We attribute our successes to our personal characteristics like our strong work ethic and our superior intellect. We attribute our failures to things beyond our control like poor market conditions, unreasonable clients, and uncooperative cooperating agents.

The Above Average Effect: We categorize ourselves as above average. (But we really are, right?) Frankly, I don’t like to think about earning the job of holding down the sad end of the bell curve.

The scary thing about being wrong is that it so often feels eerily similar to being right. Challenging ourselves to pretend that everything we have done right might have actually be done wrong is just as valuable as the addiction to challenging ourselves that everything we might have done wrong was actually done right. The difference is that it’s hard to know when wrong is the answer…until it’s too obvious to ignore and it doesn’t feel…right.



Set aside all of the contracts that you wrote last year and that did not close. Some will be easy evidence of great successes (e.g., your client wisely backed out of what was not a good deal for them). Some will be easy evidence of real failures (e.g., you should have known how to help your client address aggressive repair requests). Make a spreadsheet that requires you to write three ways you could have avoided a sale fail, even if it wasn’t your fault.

Myth 5: The market is predictable.

Predicting markets is a huge industry. The outcomes of neuroscientific studies, the future of space exploration, and even the analysis of derivatives is not something that many people believe they thoroughly understand. At least I don’t. Real estate is another story. We all get it at least a little bit. That’s why real estate ranks number two or three as the most favorite cocktail party topics. The proliferation of real estate porn only perpetuates the popularity of the topic.

We can debate the pros and cons of sharing or hoarding real estate information at a later date (and we will, stay tuned) because the future of our industry will hinge on our ability to figure this out but, for now, let’s assume that the access to this real estate porn is a net positive. Now, if you know that markets are mostly only predictable in the fact that they always fluctuate, you can keep this to yourself. Let your clients play with this porn and predict what they think that it means. Don’t worry about correcting your clients, as their predictions will be right or wrong as any group of expert analysts. If you extract their predictions along with their short and longer-germ goals and help them steer clear of acting on their predictions when it doesn’t mesh with their goals, you know that you are their best salesperson ever. If you do so without them feeling like you dismissed their predictions, they will know it.

The speed with which market predictors will delete their YouTube predicting videos when they are wrong will be faster than network news will cut away from a wardrobe malfunction. There is no need to say “I told you so” because no one will believe you anyway.



It’s 87% better to be a surfer in a tsunami than a weatherman on the beach. 91% of the world’s smartest people can figure out how this quote applies to shifting markets.
Courtesy of Sortafacts

Beside every real estate market result lays the useless carcass of yesterday’s market prediction. The only thing that is predictable is that markets fluctuate and you need to be as ready for the market flaccidity as you are for when the market Viagra kicks in…and wears off.

Busting myths in our industry can be snappy fun. It can also give us a huge advantage and head start over those that embrace the myths long after the truth is revealed.

RMLS™ subscribers: here’s a special exclusive offer to get the official (pre-released) audio recording of Becki’s upcoming book, Arousing the Buy Curious: Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals! Click the link and use the secret saving code: RMLS.

Fair Housing and Advertising

Oregon Welcomes the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP)

LizbethHaleThis post was written by Lizbeth Hale—a REALTOR® working in Clackamas, OR who recently helped found the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. She wrote in to share more about the organization with RMLS™ subscribers. NAHREP Oregon will be holding two events this month: a NAHREP mixer on May 8th in Clackamas, and “Winning the Multiple Offer Bidding War,” a class on May 22nd in North Portland.

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) is a trade association with 20,000 members and 45 chapters across the country who are dedicated to advancing sustainable Hispanic ownership. Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, with purchasing power of over $1 trillion and a projected $1.5 trillion by 2015. The Hispanic demographic, currently 52 million, is the second largest consumer group in the US and has increased 42 percent since the 2002 Census. While the overall US population is aging sharply, the median age of the Latino population is 28 years old, squarely within the average new homebuyer age of 26-45 years old. These demographic and consumer trends make it an economic imperative within the housing industry to execute strategies to best serve this burgeoning segment of the US population.

nahrep-oregon-logoNAHREP accomplishes its mission by:

  • educating and empowering the real estate professionals who serve Hispanic home buyers and sellers
  • advocating for public policy that supports the trade association’s mission
  • facilitating relationships among industry stakeholders, real estate practitioners, and other housing industry professionals.

Networking Opportunities
NAHREP conferences, seminars, and our chapter meetings provide a unique forum for the excited exchange between members of ideas, experiences, and shared challenges. These gatherings offer a rich cultural/business connection that our members consider invaluable.

NAHREP is the largest minority trade group in the real estate industry. We have a powerful and influential voice on legislative issues related to lending parameters, business practices, and regulations that affect access to homeownership.

We at NAHREP believe homes should be sold organically and individually whenever possible. This will allow Hispanics and other minority groups to achieve their homeownership goals, while simultaneously stimulating the economy. Property disposition strategies that favor investors and Wall Street firms such as auctions, bulk sales, and “drop-bid” trustee sales should be discontinued in markets where there is strong demand for residential properties.

NAHREP believes public policies can help provide Hispanic and other minority groups with an equal opportunity to become proud American homeowners, as well as provide desperately needed economic activity in the housing market.

As the President of NAHREP Oregon, I believe that it is every professional’s responsibility to get involved with NAHREP. To better understand the diversity growth in Oregon and better serve an underserved community. Hispanics prefer to do business with a professional that understands their culture, even if they don’t speak the same language.

Hispanics will make 40 percent of homebuyers in the next 20 years. The Hispanic population in Oregon is the 18th largest in the nation—467,922, or 12% of the state’s total population. Oregon Hispanics had a purchasing power of $7 billion. In 2009, Oregon was among the ten states with the highest Latino business growth rate in the nation (43.6 percent), with a rate nearly double the national rate of growth. In Oregon, 40% of Hispanics are homeowners.

Fair Housing and Advertising

Buying or Selling a House with a Woodstove

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has begun offering training to educate those impacted by Oregon’s new woodstove laws, such as homeowners, home buyers, and the REALTORS® working with each. The following was written by Rachel Sakata of the Oregon DEQ. bigstock-Wood-Stove-1036444SM

Have a client who is selling or buying a home with an uncertified woodstove?

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is offering a free training presentation to provide answers to common questions you might have regarding the removal and destruction of an uncertified woodstove at the time of home sale.

As you probably already know, DEQ has requirements regarding uncertified woodstoves. The law helps people from unnecessary wood smoke pollution and went into effect in 2010. Uncertified woodstoves burn about 70 percent dirtier than certified woodstoves. These older polluting stoves may also have been installed improperly, posing potential fire hazard and safety concerns.

DEQ’s free training presentation answers the most common questions you might have. It can help you identify:

  • if you have an uncertified woodstove;
  • what devices are exempt from the removal requirement;
  • how to remove and destroy the uncertified woodstove;
  • how to notify DEQ;
  • other general questions (penalties, who is responsible, etc.).

This training can be viewed individually or given to a group. DEQ can also provide a limited number of trainings in the Portland metro area to any large groups of interested REALTORS®.

This is a great way to refresh your knowledge of woodstoves and provide the latest information to your clients. For more information contact Nancy Cardwell at (503) 229-6610 or email woodstoves@deq.state.or.us.

Fair Housing and Advertising

Training Webinars Expanded on RMLSweb

TrainingStaffsmToday’s post is courtesy of Gerry and Mike (left), who comprise the RMLS™ Training Department. If you’ve ever gone to any RMLSweb trainings in the Portland metro area, you’ve most likely met at least one of them. The department has some exciting news to share…


The RMLS™ Training Department is excited to announce that we have extended our webinar library to include four new webinar classes in addition to the three already available!

Web-based seminars, or webinars, are online workshops that have been in use for many years, but did not really gain widespread popularity as a training tool until the late 1990s. RMLS™ has undertaken an extensive webinar project in an attempt to provide another educational opportunity for our subscribers.

All of our webinars are scheduled for a maximum of one hour. The classes focus on specific parts of RMLSweb and can be viewed in the comfort of your home or office.

The newest webinar classes are:

• Creating a Prospecting Profile
Ever wish you had a personal assistant that could take your buyer’s criteria, monitor the results, and email it to them? Welcome to the wonderful world of Prospecting Profiles! Learn how to customize an advanced search using specific criteria that matches your buyer’s needs and have those results automatically emailed.

• CMA Overview
A comparative market analysis (CMA) is one of the main tools that you will use to assist sellers in arriving at a suggested sale price. Our webinar includes an overview of setting up and producing a complete CMA report for your client.

• Searching with Map Range
Learn how to master the different ways to map an area using the rectangle, circle, and polygon functions to help narrow down a specific location.

• RMLSweb Statistical Tools
This webinar will direct you to the various statistical tools available to subscribers on RMLSweb.

…and don’t forget our existing webinars: Listing Load Overview, Navigating Search Results, and Customizing Search Results!

RegisterWebinarSigning up for one of our scheduled, live webinars is the same as signing up for any of our classes: simply log in to RMLSweb and select Toolkit/Training Registration from the blue navigation bar at the top of our home page. Once in the Training Calendar, click on the hyperlinked name of your desired webinar, read the class description, and click the button to register. You may also register by calling (503) 236-RMLS (7657) or (877) 256-2169 toll free. After receiving your request we will send you confirmation by email which will include class details and instructions on how to join the webinar.

Joining a session consists of a video and audio connection, in which the video uses a link to GoToMeeting, while the audio connects users to the RMLS™ conference call system, which has the advantage of allowing questions to be asked at any time during a presentation—much like a regular classroom.

RMLS webinars is another in our series of training tools for subscribers. Remember: at RMLS™, service is our last name.