The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. It applies to most housing and housing-related transactions and is enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
It is illegal to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
It is also illegal to advertise or make any statement that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
It is important for real estate professionals to be familiar with and abide by fair housing laws to avoid discrimination, and ensure equal access to housing opportunities for all.
Penalties for breaking fair housing laws can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the severity of the violation. In general, penalties can include fines, injunctive relief (such as ordering the violator to take certain actions to address the violation), and/or damages (such as monetary compensation for the person or persons who were harmed by the violation).
If a case is brought by the government, penalties can include fines of up to $16,000 for first-time violators and up to $65,000 for repeat violators. In addition, the violator may be ordered to take affirmative steps to correct the violation, such as providing fair housing training for employees or advertising in minority-oriented publications.
If a case is brought by a private individual, the violator may be ordered to pay compensatory and/or punitive damages to the person or persons who were harmed by the violation. These damages can be substantial, and in some cases can reach into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
It is also important to note that violation of fair housing laws can lead to severe damage to the reputation of the individual or the company who is found guilty.
It is therefore important for real estate professionals to take compliance with fair housing laws seriously, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that they are not engaging in discriminatory practices.