April is Fair Housing Month: Proclaim Your Commitment

April is Fair Housing Month: Proclaim Your Commitment

Fair Housing Month is celebrated nationally each April in observance of the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This important legislation prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing. It is an issue vital to everyone in the housing industry, from REALTORS® to short-term tenants.

Join your fellow REALTORS® in proclaiming your commitment to fair housing for all! Following are a few ideas to get you started…

Put a Poster On It

Put your commitment to fair housing on display! The National Association of REALTORS® has a poster featuring a timeline of milestones in fair housing or there’s always the Fair Housing Declaration. Likewise, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a poster of their own. If you’re looking for something a little more whimsical, check out this year’s Fair Housing Council of Oregon poster winners.

Lobby the Locals

Work with the electeds in your town or county and ask them to proclaim April as Fair Housing Month. The National Association of REALTORS® has boilerplate text for such a declaration on their website.

Read All About It

Educate yourself about fair housing issues. REALTORS® can learn about their responsibilities under fair housing laws through the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. (Be sure to check out all the resources under the “Learn” tab on their website.) Read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond—this year’s selection for the Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads program.

Don’t neglect to educate your clients! The Fair Housing Council of Oregon has an informative site for housing consumers—and plenty of materials translated for speakers of other languages too.

Take It to the Next Level

If you’re looking for an office activity that will lend a unique perspective on housing issues, consider booking a fair housing bus tour or a training class with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. Consider holding a poverty simulation at your office, which also involves housing issues. If those options are a little too time-involved, consider organizing a fair housing movie night with classics such as A Raisin in the Sun. Experiential learning can provide food for thought for years to come, and can be a valuable experience for your office staff.

What do you or your office do to observe Fair Housing Month?

April is Fair Housing Month: Proclaim Your Commitment

You Can Make a Change: April is Fair Housing Month!


This April, celebrate National Fair Housing Month with the National Association of REALTORS®, Fair Housing Council of Oregon, and RMLS™. April 11th marks the 48th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing. It is an issue vital to everyone in the housing industry, from REALTORS® to short-term tenants. Each April, National Fair Housing Month is observed to spotlight this important issue.

How can your office observe Fair Housing Month? Here are a few ideas:

• The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) regularly publishes online content about fair housing in the industry. Explore the most recent offerings, such as Window to the Law: Disparate Impact Liability and Fair Housing, and moderate an office discussion about fair housing practices at your next office meeting.
• NAR’s REALTOR® Action Center suggests displaying materials related to Fair Housing in your brokerage office. Could you get your town to declare April as Fair Housing Month? They can help!
Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO)  will be on hand at several events this April to answer questions and talk to the public. Catch them at Portland’s Mexican Consolate from 10am-3pm on April 4th and April 8th; the Asian and Pacific Islander Community Improvement Association Home Buyer Fair on April 9th; and the Latino Cultural Festival on April 24th.
• If you like museums, consider a visit to “Anywhere but Here,” FHCO’s traveling exhibit of housing discrimination in Oregon. The public can view the exhibit at the following locations:

March 28-April 8
Clackamas County Housing Rights and Resource Center
2051 Kaen Road
Oregon City, OR

April 11-April 22
The Portland Building
1120 SW Fifth Ave
Portland, OR

April 25-May 6
Yamhill County Housing Authority
135 NE Dunn Place
McMinnville, OR

May 9-May 20
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center
9205 SW Barnes Road
Portland, OR

• RMLS™ staff members frequently join FHCO’s Fair Housing Bus Tour that rolls around Portland in April. The tour makes stops at sites important to Portland’s fair housing history and includes speakers who personally experienced housing discrimination, speaking firsthand about the discrimination they faced.

How does your office celebrate Fair Housing Month? Share your ideas and resources below—we can all benefit from sharing what we know.

April is Fair Housing Month: Proclaim Your Commitment

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.

Celebrate Fair Housing Month in April!

Celebrate Fair Housing Month in April!


Housing can have a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life—including the person’s physical and social health, access to community resources, and even employment. Historically, certain groups have encountered obstacles to housing, which led to the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Fair Housing Month is celebrated nationally each April in observance of this legislation.

RMLS™ encourages your business to commemorate Fair Housing Month! Here are a few ideas on how to do so.

• Review how REALTORS® can play a part in creating positive, diverse neighborhoods during a regular brokerage meeting.
• Watch a few educational videos online about modern-day housing discrimination, including linguistic profiling.
Take a fair housing quiz online!
• Read “The Air I Breathe,” a first-person account of growing up “tolerated and underestimated” in Portland, by Ifanyi Bell. This piece, which originally appeared in the Oregon Humanities quarterly last winter, has since received national attention.
• Charter or join a bus tour with Fair Housing Council of Oregon! The bus tour is highly recommended by all RMLS™ staff who have previously gone on the tour, and I’m hoping to make it myself this April.

And of course, you could also explore the resources from my Fair Housing Month blog post for RMLS™ in April 2014.

April is Fair Housing Month: Proclaim Your Commitment

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.