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REALTORS® discuss issues with Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

 

The leadership of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) joined more than 9,000 REALTORS® and guests from across the country in the nation’s capital this week for the 2018 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo to advance policy initiatives that strengthen the ability of Americans to buy, invest, own and sell real estate.

On their agendas this year were visits with members of Congress, regulatory agency officials and top industry leaders; attending some of the nearly 100 available conference sessions on topics ranging from policy to technology; and focusing on the yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

REALTORS® are advocating support for several important legislative initiatives, including strong net neutrality protections to ensure the internet is open and competitive for consumers and businesses; renewing and strengthening the long-term viability of the National Flood Insurance Program; indexing homeownership tax incentives for future inflation and permanently extending the tax exclusion on mortgage debt forgiveness; and adopting sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the Fair Housing Act.

NAR is also urging Congress to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the Fair Housing Act. As members of NAR, REALTORS® subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics, which includes a commitment to provide equal professional services regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, and as of 2009, sexual orientation, and since 2014, gender identity.

SILVAR leadership met with U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo, who represents California’s 18th Congressional District, Jackie Speier, who represents the state’s 14th Congressional District and Ro Khanna, who represents District 17. Representing SILVAR at the Hill meetings were SILVAR President Bill Moody, President-elect Alan Barbic, NAR Directors Leannah Hunt and Jim Hamilton, Federal Political Coordinator of Congresswoman Eshoo Carole Feldstein, Executive Officer Paul Cardus and Government Affairs Director Ryan Carrigan. Also at the meetings was Board Director Joanne Fraser.
 

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The United States Supreme Court recently held that a private or public entity can be sued for discrimination even if there was no intent by that entity to discriminate, upholding the validity of disparate impact claims in fair housing issues.

The ruling touches on the concept of “disparate impact” which, under the Fair Housing Act, states that any policy or practice that creates a disproportionate “adverse impact” on any group based on race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, or disability may be considered discriminatory or illegal. Opponents have maintained there needs to be intent for a discrimination suit to be valid, but all federal courts of appeal have interpreted the law to mean that an entity can get sued for housing discrimination if its actions have a disparate impact on a protected class, regardless of intent.

In its ruling, however, the Court clarified that just because an action has a disparate impact, it does not mean it is discriminatory. The plaintiff must point to a specific policy that the defendant had and show that the policy had a negative impact on the plaintiff’s protected class. The defendant can avoid liability if it can prove that the policy is necessary to achieve a legitimate business interest. The plaintiff also must be able to show there is an alternative business practice with a less discriminatory effect that would equally serve the defendant’s legitimate business interest in order for the plaintiff’s disparate impact claim to be valid.

As an example, a REALTOR® having a policy of only selling homes to members of their religious institution could face a disparate impact claim if a member of a different faith claims that this policy causes members of the another faith to miss the best homes. In the same light, when considering the adoption of any policy, real estate professionals operating as property managers or housing developers should make sure the policy will not have an unintended disparate impact on a protected class.

April 2013 marks the 45th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act, which strives to to ensure equal housing opportunity for all. Each year REALTORS® join the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and rest of the nation in recognizing April as Fair Housing Month.

REALTORS® play a vital role in ensuring fair housing for all and strive to make homeownership accessible to everyone. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) works to help create an environment where everyone can choose where they want to live and not be discriminated against as they seek to achieve the American dream of homeownership.

Carolyn Miller, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, whose members are also members of NAR, says REALTORS® abide by a Code of Ethics that states REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services and shall not be a party to any plan or agreement to discriminate against any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation.

“REALTORS® want all buyers and sellers to enjoy the benefits of a housing market free from discrimination,” says Miller.

On April 26, SILVAR is promoting Fair Housing Month by offering At Home With Diversity®, a course that teaches REALTORS® and other business professionals how to work effectively within a multicultural market. The full-day course addresses topics like diversity, fair housing and business planning development. For more information about At Home With Diversity®, call SILVAR at (408) 200-0100.

“Knowing how to work effectively with diverse populations can help you build business success in today’s multicultural real estate market,” adds Miller.

Under the law, a home seller or landlord cannot 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 real estate agent to convey any limitations in a sale or rental.

Buyers or renters have the right to expect housing will be available to them without discrimination, including:
• 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.
• freedom from harassment or intimidation for exercising their fair housing rights.

Buyers or renters who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the alleged discrimination.

HUD recently launched a new mobile application for iPhone and iPad that provides the public information about their housing rights and responsibilities. The app also provides information about the fair housing complaint process, and allows the public to access HUD’s toll-free discrimination hotline and link to HUD’s fair housing website: http://www.hud.gov/fairhousing

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® joins the nation in observing Fair Housing Month in April. This year marks the 44th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.

“REALTORS® play a vital role in ensuring fair housing for all and strive every day to make home ownership accessible to everyone,” said Suzanne Yost, 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.”

Members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® abide by a Code of Ethics that provides under Article 10 that REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin and shall not be a party to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

The home seller, the prospective home buyer, and the real estate professional all have rights and responsibilities under the law. Home sellers and landlords have a responsibility and a requirement 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 the licensed broker or salesperson acting as 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 and renters have the right to expect that housing will be available without discrimination. This includes 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
• freedom from harassment or intimidation for exercising their fair housing rights.

If you feel you have experienced discrimination in the rental, sale, financing or insuring of a property, you may file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Complaints must be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination. Visit http://www.dfeh.ca.gov for more information.

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