4 Ways to Avoid Discrimination in Your Ads

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, real estate advertisements cannot include material that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Use this checklist to see how your ad measures up.

1. Watch what you imply. Is your ad communicating, directly or indirectly, that your company only serves a certain type of buyer? Be sure that you are not using any catch words, phrases, pictures, or symbols that imply a dwelling is unavailable to certain people.

2. Be aware of location. Avoid narrowly focused magazines, newspapers, radio stations, or television stations that are geared to one audience to the exclusion of others. Also, do not use billboards that will be seen by only one group.

3. Pay attention to models. If you use human models in an ad, make sure they are not of just one race or national origin. In addition, be aware that photographs or drawings suggesting a preference for one gender or adults only may violate the Fair Housing Act. Use both sexes and different types of families.

4. Use logos and disclaimers correctly. All ads should include an equal housing disclaimer and/or logo. (This is not required by law but serves as evidence of your commitment). The disclaimer states that you will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, or familial status. The equal housing opportunity logo is a picture of a small house with the words “equal housing opportunity” directly beneath it. Note that the small house picture cannot be used without the words “equal housing opportunity” beneath it, but the words can be used without the small house picture. Although using a disclaimer and/or logo will not eliminate discrimination liability, it is one of the factors used in determining intent to discriminate.

Seth G. Weissman, “Real Estate Advertisements and the Fair Housing Act,” in Georgia REALTOR®, April 1997

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