In recognition of Fair Housing Month in April, REALTORS® continue to reaffirm their commitment to equal access to housing and home ownership. Signed into law in 1968 and amended in 1988, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin.

“Fair housing is not an option; it’s the law,” said Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® . “REALTORS®  are on the ‘front lines,’ working with buyers and sellers to see that they enjoy the benefits of a housing market free from discrimination.”

To mark Fair Housing Month, SILVAR on April 8 offered the National Association of REALTORS® ’ At Home with Diversity certification course for all REALTORS®  and affiliates. The course teaches real estate professionals how to increase their sensitivity and adaptability to future market trends and how to transact business across cultures, generations and other differences. More than 25,000 REALTORS®  have completed the program.

“People have a right to live wherever they can afford to live,” Lentz said. “Fair housing means opening those doors for everyone in this country whose goal it is to own a home.”

Lentz indicated Santa Clara County is among the most diverse counties in the U.S. The 2010 U.S. Census figures show the county grew by nearly 6 percent in the past decade. Much of the growth in population is attributed to a gain of about 140,000 Asians and 76,000 Latinos, yet minority home ownership comprises a very low percentage of the population.

“Diverse neighborhoods and schools strengthen communities, and minority population growth is vital to sustaining housing markets,” said Lentz.

Lentz said the home seller, the prospective home buyer and the real estate professional all have rights and responsibilities under the law.

A home seller or landlord is required under the law not to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of property on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. They cannot instruct their agent to convey any limitations in the sale or rental because the real estate professional is also bound by law not to discriminate.

Buyers or renters have the right to expect that housing will be available without discrimination, including  the right to expect housing in their  price range made available without discrimination; equal professional service; the opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices; no discriminatory limitations on communities or locations of housing; no discrimination in the financing, appraising, or insuring of housing; reasonable accommodations in rules, practices and procedures for persons with disabilities; non-discriminatory terms and conditions for the sale, rental, financing, or insuring of a dwelling; and freedom from harassment or intimidation for exercising their fair housing rights.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Complaints must be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination.