When I meet with clients, I like to discuss that I consider the equal opportunity laws to be the “highest law of the land”. Some of you may remember me actually saying those words because I know that they carry some serious consequences if they are violated.
We just had the fortieth anniversary of the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or handicap (mental or physical). It is also illegal to consider these matters as factors when determining the value of the property for a listing. I’m sure this logo must look familiar to everyone over 12.
Did you also know that intent to discriminate generally does not have to be shown?
Yes, you are guilty! (I will tell you the fine below)
So, I was giving a price-range opinion in the Arlington County Courthouse today under oath, and the attorney asked me “if the demographics of the neighborhood effect the rental price of a home?” Hey, I’m just there to give a price-range opinion on a home that I have only seen from my car and the Arlington County tax records, not talk about shifty ways people use demographics to determine prices or discriminate.
My response was that “I cannot comment on the demographics of any neighborhood.” Not because I was thinking about the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, but because I really didn’t know who lives in that neighborhood.
It did not hit me until I left the Courthouse that this guy was trying to get me on the record violating the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, and I am really pissed about it. Over the past 18 years, my clientele has resembled the United Nations, with many first generation immigrants, inter-racial couples, over 55, singles, and a class protected only in Arlington County and Alexandria City, sexual orientation. These clients trusted me to help them, and a few told me past situations where they were discriminated against. Well, not on my watch.
If I wasn’t an experienced agent who has had the FFHC of 1968 hammered into me then I probably would have walked right into this bear trap. (Maybe that’s why I had a friendly sheriff escort me to the courtroom?)
Arlington County protects everything mentioned above in the FFHA of 1968, but there are additional groups covered by Arlington County Ordinances including:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
I have had a few occasions over the past 18 years where people who I did not really know asked me about the demographics of an area. Have you ever heard that HUD has testers who pose as buyers who ask leading questions just like this? My response is to tell them to look it up on the Internet where you can get all the useless information you will ever want to know.
Let me be clear: Get the heck out of my car if you expect me to discuss demographics.
Oh yeah, the automatic fine is $50,000 and you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent.
Yes, I’m still steamed!