Discriminatory Advertisements and How to Avoid Them

April 5, 2023

- By Kate Berard

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from making statements or placing advertisements that discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, disability, source of income, and certain other characteristics.

In many instances, a REALTOR® is hired to market and advertise a landlord’s rental properties and must be mindful of fair housing violations in advertising. REALTORS® must be able to clearly communicate to their landlord client impermissible advertising practices.

While advertisements clearly cannot explicitly ban certain applicants, the law also equally prohibits advertisements that suggest a preference.

The following are examples of discriminatory language in advertisements for housing:

Not Section 8 certified.

Must have minimum annual income of $50,000.

Ideal for a college student.

Proof of employment income required.

Perfect for professional couple.

One occupant preferred.

Must have good credit and verifiable employment.

No pets, no exceptions.

Not safe for young children.

Be mindful of how and to whom the advertisements are marketed. Housing providers cannot use online marketing tools to target their advertisements only to groups with specific characteristics, while excluding people with different characteristics that the law protects.

Remember, as the REALTOR® you want to help facilitate the process within the bounds of the law but stay far away from the decision making. Having clear advertising parameters helps to set the tone for the next steps in the process, tenant screening.

Landlords with specific questions regarding appropriate policies and processes should be advised to seek independent legal counsel.