Real Estate Sales Force’s Dinorah Guerra on how agents can protect clients from housing discrimination

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, and in honor of this milestone, the National Association of Realtors is celebrating year round and highlighting the achievements made thus far, as well as how much farther we still need to go to accomplish fair housing as a living reality for all.

Last month during the Legislative Mid-Year meetings in Washington D.C., the Women’s Council of Realtors hosted a panel with speakers throughout the U.S., to discuss Fair Housing.

In this Q&A, Dinorah Guerra, a Realtor Associate with Real Estate Sales Force who served on the panel, speaks about fair housing matters and how Realtors can continue to ensure equal housing access for their clients.

What knowledge or wisdom were you hoping to impart upon the audience?

Not many Realtors in the audience knew that aside from the Federal protected classes, many state and local laws provide further protection to consumers by enforcing additional protected classes such as gender identity, criminal history, age, citizenship, sexual orientation, military status, political affiliation and source of income (Miami-Dade and Broward counties have both adopted this class).

Why do you find it so important to be a passionate advocate for fair housing?

Realtors are on the front lines for consumers and we have to make sure our clients (homebuyer’, sellers, renters, landlords, etc.) don’t become victims or perpetrators of housing discrimination. Housing affects many aspects of life, defining everything from the school someone attends to the grocery stores people buy food at to the parks and public spaces families can go to. Fair housing is more than a list of protected classes, it’s about basic human rights essential to all. Where we live matters.

What have you been your own experiences with regard to fair housing violations? Have you had clients who were witness to discrimination?

Earlier this year, a little more than 35 brokerages throughout South Florida were all involved in a discrimination lawsuit for allegedly discriminating against “source of income.” They claimed an agent from each of these brokerages discriminated by advertising “no Section 8 accepted”. If you’re located in Orlando, that wouldn’t be a problem; however, in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the source of income is a protected class and therefore is considered a violation.

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance’s most recent annual report, there were slightly over 28,000 reported complaints of housing discrimination last year, with the thought that many more incidents go unreported each year. The majority of reported housing discrimination cases (91.5 percent) occurred during rental transactions. Most violations take place when prospective tenants apply for apartments and owners reject them based on their race, sex or another protected class.

How can agents ensure that the Fair Housing Act is followed out and remains top of mind in real estate?

Keep yourself educated. Know what you can or can’t say. As a real estate agent, you’re not allowed to answer questions from clients such as if a neighborhood is “safe” or whether schools are good. If an area is described as “not that family-friendly,” that might imply families with kids are not welcome, or “this neighborhood is a good place to raise kids” could imply households without kids are not welcome.

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