The List

The List

Written by Jo Becker, Education and Outreach Specialist for Fair Housing Council of Oregon

It’s the stuff of urban legends. It always comes up in fair housing trainings–be it classes I attended years ago as a sales agent or in classes I conduct for the Fair Housing Council now. Everyone’s heard of it; everyone wants to know how to get his/her hands on it. Some call it the “Red Light/Green Light” list; others have dubbed it with the classy moniker of the “No-No” List. That infamous, non-existent list of words one should never utter; a list that if ardently avoided would keep one safe from fair housing complaints or violations. I’ve got news for you folks; “THE LIST” is a myth!

HUD, the federal regulatory body with the power to enforce the Fair Housing Act, does not have such a list. We at the Fair Housing Council (FHCO), the authority on fair housing across Oregon and SW Washington, have never had such a list. What most people probably recall are lists that newspapers have published for advertisers to help ensure protection against a fair housing violation that would name them as well as the sales agent placing the ad. These media lists are often more conservative than we at the FHCO are, essentially because these publications are very sensitive to being slapped with a fine or lawsuit.

Realtors® have, no doubt, experienced multiple listing service computer programming that scans newly input listings for verbiage that may violate fair housing laws. Please don’t be intimated or put off by these electronic programs; they don’t know if you typed “white picket fence” or “whites only.” When you’re asked to review your listing, simply double check it and know that a living, breathing human will follow up to review it as well.

Now, the myth of the list has spawned many urban legends, which I would like to debunk and/or explain here.

Walk-in Closet — This is a common feature in many homes and is commonly understood to refer to such. So long as you don’t go on to imply that (or limit access to) someone who isn’t ambulatory can’t use the closet or live in the home, you’re fine!

View Property — Same as above. So long as you don’t limit access to the view property to sighted individuals, there’s nothing wrong with using the word “view” to describe a property with such an amenity. That is opposed to a case in which a landlord refused to tour an available unit with a blind applicant saying, “Why should I bother; you can’t see it anyway!” That, my friends, is discriminatory and illegal.

Mother-in-law Suite — Guess what, it’s fine so long as you don’t really mean that only a mother-in-law can live in the unit.

What about “near?” — Now, we’re getting into a more complex issue. It’s not uncommon to see promotional verbiage indicating close to shopping, transit, etc. This is fine. However, you begin to cross the line with fair housing law if you say “near the ABC mosque,” or “close to the XYZ church.”  Referencing religious or cultural sites—even though they are valid landmarks—may have what we call a “chilling effect” and can be illegal. Let’s say a synagogue or Jewish community center is referenced and the housing consumer reading it isn’t of that faith or ethnic background. They may feel that they’re not welcome there and this chilling effect can have an illegally discriminatory impact whether it was intended to or not.

Another touchy issue is referencing local schools.  National sales tests have found that schools are sometimes used as a proxy for where to buy a home. That is, some agents encourage buyers to look at and buy homes in school districts whose demographics are consistent with that of the buyer. White testers were told the virtues of predominately white schools (and by association, their neighborhoods); while minority testers were directed to predominately minority schools (and their neighborhoods); the exact schools agents told white testers to avoid. Simply listing the school district and schools that serve the area is fine so long as you do this with all of your properties.  Referring housing consumers to the district’s office or website for school stats and other information from which they can develop their own opinion in is a safe strategy so long as it is applied neutrally and consistently. Touting certain schools over others is less so, and we don’t recommend it.

Of course, any good list (if we were to create one) would include the following blatantly discriminatory statements:

  • “No minorities”
  • “African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won’t work out”
  • “Ladies please rent from me”
  • “Requirements: Clean Godly Christian Male”
  • “Will allow only single occupancy”
  • “No children”

All of these illegal statements (and many more) have been posted on the online service Craigslist. Housing providers that use illegally discriminatory statements such as these—and potentially the hosting website—are liable for having violated the Fair Housing Act. As is the landlord who told one of our staff that she had advertised “Christians only” for 20 years. It doesn’t matter where you advertise—newspapers, flyers, yard signs, verbal statements you may make to another agent or prospect, and yes even advertising online (even if it’s free!)—fair housing laws apply!

For questions about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws, visit or call 503-223-8197 or 1-800-424-3247 Ext. 108. To schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions, contact me at

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council or Oregon; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington.  Learn more and/or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at

Questions about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws?
Visit or call 800-424-3247 ext. 2.

Questions about this article or want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions? Contact Jo Becker at or 503-453-4016.

The List

Supra Releases eKEY Software and Adapter for iPhone

By Shannon Henry, Customer Service Manager for RMLS™

One of the most common Supra-related questions we’ve received here at RMLS™ over the past few years has been, “When will I be able to use an iPhone as my lockbox key?” Well, we’re pleased to announce that as of today eKEY Basic service is available on the iPhone.

The eKEY software has been designed to update wirelessly, and allows you to not only use your phone as a key to open iBoxes, but also to manage your lockbox inventory right from your iPhone. Supra anticipates that the eKEY professional version, which will include the ability to view showing information and save listing data in the software, will also be available later this year.

A Supra iPhone adapter must also be purchased to add an IR (infrared) port to the iPhone, allowing it to communicate with iBoxes. The iPhone adapter is quite small, and connects via the docking port at the bottom of your phone when you want to open a lockbox. It runs off of your phone’s power, meaning nothing extra to keep charged, and comes with a cover that allows it to hang from a keychain when not in use.

Additional Devices

We ran a quick test in the office today and determined that both the eKEY software and adapter will work on an iPad, as well. However, we don’t recommend trying to use an iPod Touch – although the software will install and the adapter will work, without a data plan you would need to be certain that you’ll have a wireless connection available everywhere you may show a property, or commit to manually updating your key every day.

Check it out

Here are a couple of resources for further reading: eKEY for iPhone Product Page, Quick Start Guide, and User Manual. The eKEY software is available for free download through Apple’s App Store here, and comes complete with a demo mode so that you can try out the software without signing up for the eKEY service.

Ready to make the switch? The iPhone adapters sell for $55 at your local RMLS™ office, where we can also get you set up with an eKEY Basic account.

Other Supra Happenings

In other news, Supra has also recently made some improvements to SupraWEB, their key and lockbox management site. Along with a couple of security upgrades, they have also fixed an issue that caused boxes to sometimes disappear from an agent’s inventory when new boxes were added. And for those of you with Android-based phones who are interested in moving to the eKEY solution, they are currently planning to release eKEY for Android software in late September. We’ll keep you updated as we hear more, and you can also sign up for updates about Android directly from Supra here.

April is National Fair Housing Month – Part 2

The Way It Was: Fair Housing Month Retrospective

By Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

Fair Housing Month, which falls in April, commemorates the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act . This year it also marks our 20th anniversary of serving Oregon and SW Washington as the Fair Housing Council. April is a good time to reflect on what life was like before these rights were passed and to think about why civil rights activists and policy leaders pushed for their passage.

There was a time in Oregon’s history that it was actually illegal for African Americans and mixed-race individuals to be present in this state. Let’s be clear, slavery wasn’t legal here, but “those people” were not welcome to be here either. There was a time when African-Americans and Asians knew “sundown laws” were common and rushed through jurisdictions to assure they weren’t caught in certain towns after dark and risk being exposed to the threat of whippings by a county official.

There was also a time when Oregon was declared the most discriminatory state north of the Mason-Dixon Line; we boasted thousands of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members targeting minorities, immigrants and Catholics.

Is housing discrimination still a problem today? Unfortunately, yes! The KKK has largely disappeared. However, other white supremacist groups have not. Cross burnings in our area are rare, yet there have been two reports of cross burnings in just the last couple of years. We have also seen an alarming number of hate crimes and harassment based on religion, national origin, disability and sexual orientation. And, who hasn’t heard about the white supremacist group that recently visited John Day and was looking to purchase real estate there in order to make the town its new training and headquarters location?

Our Fair Housing Hotline also receives more than 3,000 calls annually. We have had instances of housing providers giving false information in order to keep out “certain people.” We’ve recently seen cases where landlords have required applicants to attend church and provide verification of such from their pastors. Not too many years ago there was also a home on the market in Gresham with a sign in the window that read, “Whites Only.” Historically (and reaffirmed by recent, local testing ), equally qualified testers are sometimes quoted different prices or offered different levels of service when the only distinction between them is a protected class status such as race, national origin, familial status, or sexual orientation. All of these instances prove that housing discrimination exists.

Please use this April as an excuse to get educated about Oregon and Washington’s troubled past, and also about civil rights and fair housing movements on the national level. Please learn the reality of the situation today—how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. Furthermore, get involved, speak out and make a difference!

Visit to learn more about fair housing and the FHCO. You can also take a quick Quiz to test your fair housing knowledge and find Easy Ways to Get Involved—each linked to our entry page.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington. Learn more and/or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at

Qs about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws?
Visit or call 1-800-424-3247 Ext. 2.

Qs about this article? Do you want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?
Contact Jo Becker at or 503-453-4016.

Have property to promote?
Advertise vacancies or for-sales free across the Portland/Vancouver market at:

April is National Fair Housing Month – Part 1

Fair Housing History

By Jo Becker, Education/Outreach Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

In April 1968, shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act to combat housing discrimination. It was the most controversial piece of civil rights legislation and the most difficult to pass. Twenty years later, the Fair Housing Amendments Act followed, further strengthening the law and adding additional protected classes.  These federal laws protect everyone from discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status and disability. 

The state of Oregon passed similar legislation and has extended it to include protection against discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation and source of income. Similarly, the state of Washington has extended it to protect marital status, sexual orientation and honorably discharged veterans/military status. Some cities and counties have added additional protections; visit or for more info.

April marks the anniversary of the enactment of federal fair housing law protections and is celebrated as National Fair Housing Month.

As a former Realtor®, I know that complying with fair housing laws can be challenging. It may seem confusing and frustrating. I’ve heard the analogy of the irritation one can feel waiting for a red light to turn green, late at night, with no other cars in sight. In that moment, you are annoyed. You might ask yourself, “What is the rationale?” or “Why do I have to stop at this light?” But try to imagine what life would be like without those traffic signals or without those rules. Imagine the harm and devastation that can (and often does) occur when we ignore the rules our society has mandated. In those instances, it makes no difference if the act was accidental or unintentional; the harm is done before you even know it.

As an agent, I knew that I could have all good intentions and do everything right and yet one complaint to HUD could threaten my very livelihood. I knew and understood that. Yet, that’s not unique to fair housing. The same threat holds true from a complaint to the real estate agency and, let’s face it, anyone can sue anyone else for anything at any time. Yes, there are frivolous claims and suits, but the laws were enacted for a reason, and that is to address real and intolerable injustices facing our society. I encourage you to find out more so that you can learn the reasons behind the causes and justification for fair housing laws and to help protect yourself in your daily practice. Please visit to learn more.

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a nonprofit serving the state of Oregon and SW Washington. Learn more and/or sign up for our free, periodic newsletter at

Questions about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws? Visit or call 1-800-424-3247 Ext. 2.

Questions about this article? Do you want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions? Contact Jo Becker at or 503-453-4016.

Do you have property to promote? Advertise vacancies or for-sales free across the Portland/Vancouver market at