As a member of the real estate industry, you are well aware of the rights you have and the rights your clients have - especially when it relates to discrimination. How you approach each professional relationship must be in a fair and equal manner, or else you may find yourself the subject of a discrimination claim.
At the moment, this would mean the plaintiff would only have to prove you acted in a way that was unequal toward them, whether or not you had intended to do so. However, a case is currently in the U.S. Supreme Court that could change the requirements to prove housing discrimination, and that ruling has the potential to drastically alter the industry as we know it.
Bias could come into play
According to Bloomberg, the Supreme Court might soon hear an appeal from Texas officials who want plaintiffs in housing discrimination cases to have to show intentional bias on the part of the defendant before proving guilt.
That isn't a requirement now, as a guilty charge can be awarded based off of more lax guidelines. This issue of bias is a key one in this situation, as it might make it more challenging to bring a housing discrimination case before the courts.
Joseph Rich, an attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, explained to Bloomberg that requiring proof in these situations could prevent a number of discrimination cases from being heard.
"Intentional discrimination is often discreet," he told the media outlet.
The decision of whether or not to revise the standard here would impact many different elements of the real estate industry, including lenders, landlords, insurers, developers and other groups. Proponents believe that requiring intent to be proven would relieve the pressure on many professionals, like lenders who have to analyze income, assets and debt for all clients but also approve a certain number of minority applicants, or else face a potential discrimination case, Bloomberg noted.
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Avoid housing discrimination
As a real estate professional, you want to ensure your clients are happy and satisfied, and you also want to help everyone as much as possible. To do this, you have to avoid housing discrimination, whether it is intentional or not.
For real estate agents, this means being willing to sell every property to all clients, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or other factor, according to the National Association of Realtors. You also cannot create terms or conditions of the sale that are discriminatory. Homebuyers have the right to purchase any housing and receive fair and equal professional services along the way, the same as any other person.
Landlords have similar restrictions, but they do have rights of their own when it comes to who they can and cannot rent to. The Connecticut Legal Rights Project explained that landlords can't discriminate who they choose as tenants in the same way as real estate agents, but they can say no in a few key instances. For example, landlords can deny a person if they have pets, assuming their pets are not service animals. Landlords can also ask for credit references, two months worth of rent for a security deposit and past landlord references without fear of discrimination.
Overall, you must be a fair, equal real estate professional. Even if the ruling for this Supreme Court cases makes it harder to prove discrimination, making sure you are going by the letter of the law is a smart choice, no matter what.