Advertising and Fair Housing

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Fair housing law prohibits housing providers and the media from printing or publishing an advertisement that indicates a preference, limitation, or discriminates based on a protected class. Currently state and federal law protects people from housing discrimination based on an individual's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability. State law also protects marital status and source of income, and some cities or counties protect age, sexual orientation and gender identity.

What should be avoided?

• Direct discrimination, such as "No Children" or "Healthy Only"

• Pictorial inserts that only show non-disabled white adults communicate the same illegal message as the words "non-disabled white adults only"

What else should I know?

• Words that describe behavior - not status - are generally permissible. Examples of acceptable words are "responsible" or "reliable." If the word "independent" is used, it should be clear that a person with a disability who can live alone with some outside assistance is not excluded.

• Words that describe an attribute of a dwelling unit are permissible unless the ad restricts who can live there. For example "family room" or "mother-in-law apartment" are okay as long as it does not really mean only a mother-in-law can live there.

Similarly "view" or "within walking distance of downtown" are descriptive and acceptable. What would be illegal are "no blind persons" or "no wheelchairs".

• Age. Age is a protected class only in some areas, but beware of any ads limiting age, because they may discriminate against families with children.

• Senior housing and "adults only". Senior housing may exclude families with children, but it must meet certain criteria, including an intent to be senior housing. Using "adults only" does not express the intent to be "senior housing." The ad should indicate the housing is for those over age 55 or age 62 or seniors.

• Words that do not directly prohibit a protected class but are "neutral" are permissible. Permissible are phrases like "choice location, "executive home," "private." But if you know that your client wants to use "code" words because of an intent to exclude protected class individuals, follow the spirit of fair housing and do not do it.

Other suggestions --

• Use the HUD fair housing logo where possible

• If a dwelling unit is accessible to persons with mobility impairments, mention it in your ads