Fair Housing Advertising Pointers

 Deb Conrad  |    April 03, 2014

Fair housing laws impact what REALTORS¬ģ may or may not say when advertising property for sale or rent. REALTORS¬ģ writing promotional copy, including the remarks for MLS listings, should be careful to avoid fair housing law violations. This applies to advertising in all media including the MLS, websites, blogs, tweets, faxes, email, radio, television, fliers, signs, posters, banners, newspapers and billboards.

Real estate advertising cannot intentionally or unintentionally state an exclusion, limitation or a preference based on membership in a protected class.

Protected classes in Wisconsin include:

Sexual orientation
National origin
Marital status
Family status
Status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking
Lawful source of income

The cardinal rule for avoiding fair housing liability in advertising is to describe the property and property features ‚ÄĒ not the buyer or tenant!

The following are some helpful advertising guidelines for REALTORS¬ģ.

Avoid strategies that target less than the whole market

Do not direct an ad to only one segment of the community.
Do not advertise in a limited geographic area.
Do not use only particular publications or editions of newspapers.
Do not use only small-circulation publications that are designed only for certain religious or ethnic groups.
Do not use only selected sales offices.

Words used in advertising

Do not use words describing the seller, buyer, landlord or tenant, such as a ‚ÄúJewish owner,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúHmong home,‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúadult building.‚ÄĚ Describe the property!
Do not give the impression that one group is preferred over another.
Avoid catchwords such as ‚Äúrestricted,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúexclusive,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúprivate,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúboard approval‚ÄĚ or ‚Äútraditional.‚ÄĚ
Avoid symbols or logos that may suggest or imply discrimination.
When stating directions, try to avoid referencing racial, ethnic or religious landmarks.
Do not use ‚Äúcrippled,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúmentally ill,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúdeaf,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúretarded,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúblind,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúsingles‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúmature persons.‚ÄĚ

Test your ads

What is the real message of the ad?
Does it exclude any groups?
Does it describe the property and not the target market?
Will the people in the community perceive the ad as indicating a preference or limitation?

Use of ‚ÄúEqual Housing Opportunity‚ÄĚ slogan and logo

Use of the Equal Housing Opportunity slogan or logo is not mandatory in all real estate advertising, but it alerts consumers to the concept of fair housing, shows the broker’s good faith commitment to fair housing, and demonstrates intent to abide by the fair housing law.

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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