Familal Status is a Protected Class, Too!

There are a lot of things that buyers look at when searching for their next home.  As agents, we try to develop marketing materials with words that will evoke images that will make those buyers think that our listing is just perfect for them.  And in crafting these messages, some agents use messages that run counter to fair housing practices.

“This property is offered without respect to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, elderliness or national origin.”

This statement appears on the last page of all purchase offer contracts written in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.   It is written in all capital letters and bold print.  Whenever you see bold words in all capitals in a contract, the attorneys who crafted the document are trying to send you a message. In other words, it is a very important statement and has quite likely resulted in a few lawsuits.  All real estate agents know that violating Fair Housing laws is a sure way to lose your license and/or be assessed astronomical fines.  The maximum penalties are $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for a third violation within seven years.

However, how many times have we seen listings with these words written in the comments section:

“Perfect for families!”

“Family-friendly neighborhood!”

If it would make your stomach turn if you replaced the word “family” with one of the other protected classes, then you should not use these messages to market your listing. If you do, you could find yourself the target of a fair housing discrimination lawsuit.

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