If you’re in the market for a home, you’ve probably heard of the Fair Housing Act. This is a law that was first passed in 1968 to prevent landlords and sellers from discriminating against individuals based on race, color, religion, or national origin. It was later amended over the years also to include protection against discrimination based on gender, sex, disability, or familial status. The law was something of a milestone when it passed and guarantees that no one can be turned away by a seller or landlord based on their attributes, at least not without facing legal consequences.
However, as a buyer, it might come as a surprise to know that the Fair Housing Act will impact your home search. Mainly in what an agent can or can’t do for you. Let’s take a closer look at the Fair Housing Act and see how it affects you as a buyer.
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Fair Housing Act Laws in NYC
As mentioned above, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal nationwide to discriminate against anyone based on:
- Familial status
- National origin
- Disability (physical or mental)
In addition to that, New York State Human Rights Law makes it illegal to discriminate based on:
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Military status
Along with all that, New Yorkers receive further protection. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on:
- Alienage/citizenship status
- Domestic partnership status
- Gender identity
- Lawful occupation
- Lawful source of income
- Status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking
How do Fair Housing Act laws affect your home search?
We’ve talked endlessly here on why having a buyer’s agent is so essential for your home search. They know the real estate game back-to-front and will work tirelessly to find you a home based on your needs and desires. So, since they know a given neighborhood so well, it seems fair to ask them everything about it. However, despite how much they might want to help you, they can’t answer all your questions.
That’s because, under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful for a real estate agent to engage in any conduct that is discriminatory towards any of the protected classes. This means they can’t accommodate individual requests from the buyer.
For example, if a newly married Catholic couple asked their agent to find them a home close to a Catholic church in an “adults only” community, the agent cannot consider that request. This goes for anything, whether it be a specific church, ethnic composition or age group. Even when a buyer is adamant that this be part of their equation in determining what homes to show them, the agent must refuse, regardless.
It’s a buyer’s choice
A buyer’s agent may not be able to answer any direct questions about the age, ethnic composition or even safety of a neighborhood. But they can point you in the right direction of information that will allow you to come to your conclusion. Whether an area is safe or not is a subjective decision. Your agent can suggest websites, and other sources get your information but cannot give their judgment. That’s up to the buyer to decide. If you wish to rule out specific properties and neighborhoods based on factors that are important to you, that’s your decision.
The Fair Housing Act exists to ensure everyone has an equal chance at achieving homeownership on their terms. By doing your research into neighborhoods, you can choose a home that perfectly suits your needs and preferences.