To help minimize the risks that a potential buyer or tenant or even seller/landlord feel they were illegally/unethically fair housing discriminated against, it is best to consider only the terms of the offer/lease/counter rather than considering the person’s fair housing protected classifications.
One way to minimize this fair housing risk is to deter clients, customers, brokers, agents, and BICs from researching buyers/sellers/tenants/landlords online (e.g., social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Linkedin, asking about people, private investigations). Simply consider the offer/lease/counter’s written terms.
Laws and ethics require REALTORS® to abide by fair housing laws/ethics.
SCR forms require consumers to abide by fair housing laws.
Because written name(s) in an offer/counter can indicate or be used to infer fair housing protected classes (sex/gender, familial status, sexual orientation, race, religion, color, national origin) some professionals use methods to remove this issue by covering the name or using a "nameless" spreadsheet during consideration of the offer/lease/counter’s written terms.
Shielding names during offer consideration and deterring online researching of the person may make the buyer/tenant/seller/landlord be more likely to feel they were treated fairly during offer/lease/counter considerations and their protected fair housing classifications were not used to illegally/unethically discriminate against them.
Since these same fair housing issues can arise when attaching a "love letter" or photograph to an offer that intentionally or inherently demonstrates or describes the buyer/tenant’s family, familial status, race, religion, color, sexual orientation, color, gender identity, national origin, disability/handicap, or sex/gender; some professionals deter/block love letters or photographs of consumers from being seen during the consideration of terms phase of the potential transaction.
Background checks and criminal background should balance fair housing issues (e.g., potential disparate impact on fair housing classifications) with safety issues. If decisions are based on background checks, account for the potential for information inaccuracy, time passed since conviction/sentence, type of crime (e.g., violent/non-violent), and ask about mitigating factors such as character references, a clean record since, and a positive rental history since.
Posted by: Byron King on 3/31/21 (This information is only accurate as of 3/30/21. You must contact SCR for updates and changes to this information after 3/31/21 as laws and regulations may change over time. SCR 803-772-5206 or email info at screaltors.org)