Advertising is an essential part of day-to-day business for the housing industry. But is your advertising compliant? How can you avoid common mistakes that lead to violations? In this article, we will discuss the dos and don’ts when it comes to fair housing and advertising.
Different Types of Media
There are many forms of advertising media available today. The law says you can’t “make, print, or publish. . . any notice, statement, or advertisement . . . that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” So as you can see the law is very broad and covers a range of media like flyers, brochures, deeds, signs, banners, posters, billboards, and even pictures in your office.
The law also covers what we say about the property over the phone or in person. Expressing an illegal preference or limitation to one of your fellow agents, brokers, employees, prospective sellers, renters, or any other person in connection with the sale or rental of your property is illegal.
Photos and Decorations
Our rental offices are usually the first thing a prospect sees. We all like to showcase the different amenities with eye-catching photos of residents enjoying them. But do your pictures show only people of the same race or perhaps the same age group? This can give the impression that your property only leases to people of a certain age and race which is considered illegal advertising and is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Instead, you should use a variety of both resident images along with models so that a variety of both sexes, persons with disabilities, and, when appropriate, children of all ages are represented.
The law says you can’t use “words, phrases, symbols or forms of any kind” which tends to give the impression that your property is available (or not available) to certain types of people.
For example, when advertising a unit for rent, it’s common to see “No Pets” in the ad which is fine. However, adding statements like “Christian Roommate”, “No Children” or “No Wheelchairs” is illegal.
Using phrases such as “great view,” “walk-in closets” or “walk to bus stop” is acceptable. However, there are certain “buzz” words you should still avoid. These are words or phrases that have been associated with discriminatory practices in the past. They include such words as “restricted,” “exclusive,” “limited,” and so forth.
Also while religious discrimination is illegal, using words like “kosher meals served on the premises,” or including phrases such as “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” in an ad is not considered discriminatory.
A great tip to remember is that HUD will consider your use of certain kinds of advertising words and slogans to be evidence of your compliance with the Fair Housing Act. For example, using HUD’s “Equal Housing Opportunity” or fair housing logo in your ads will be viewed with approval.
Fair Housing Advertising – Final Takeaway
Every company should have a clear understanding of the laws and guidelines that HUD and The Fair Housing Act provide. Along with that, every employee should have access to targeted training to ensure that when it comes to advertising, they are fair housing compliant.