November 19, 2019
Advertising Under the Fair Housing Act
Advertising your properties – whether it’s by old-fashioned signage or on digital platforms like your website, ILS and social media – ensures that your properties stay rented. However, all of your property marketing efforts need to abide by the Fair Housing Act.
Did you know that it’s been over 50 years since the federal Fair Housing Act was introduced? That’s 50 years of eliminating housing discrimination and ensuring equal housing opportunity for all people. Yet, if you thought that bias and discrimination is a thing of the past, think again. According to the 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report, “The number of housing discrimination complaints in 2018 is up by eight percent to 31,202, the highest since NFHA began producing the annual Fair Housing Trends Report in 1995.”
The report also notes that, “as in prior years, housing discrimination complaints reported in 2018 were overwhelmingly rental-related.” So, more than ever, you need to ensure you are practicing responsible, nondiscriminatory advertising.
First of all, let’s see what is considered advertising. The Fair Housing Act says that advertising includes “print and online advertisements, materials such as brochures or applications, television and radio ads, and even speech.” That means that even any verbal communication in person while showing the property or over the phone to a prospective tenant is considered a form of advertising.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and family status. This means that your property marketing can describe the property in full detail (location, how many bedrooms, amenities, etc), but cannot include statements that describe or target a type of tenant. For instance, including “No kids” in an ad is discriminatory. Other examples include:
- Ideal apartment for mature couple.
- Bachelor suitable for single professional.
- Great for young professionals and students!
- Christian couples only.
- English-speaking preferred.
In other words, don’t make statements in your property marketing materials that either defines or excludes types of tenants.
The Fair Housing act also notes that if you use people in your advertisements, ensure that the images are inclusive and representative of all communities that need access to housing. For example, if your rental office or a property billboard features large pictures of people using the property’s amenities such as exercising in the weight room or swimming, yet everyone in the pictures are young white people, this is discriminatory. The photos should include persons of differing ages, races or nationalities.
The Bottom Line
When advertising your property, stick to the facts relating to the unit itself, the building amenities and the location. If you include imagery, ensure it doesn’t just show one type of person. Make your ads inclusive and show diversity.