What is considered discriminatory in Fair Housing advertising?

Describe the PROPERTY, not the seller, or the neighbors, or the landlord, or appropriate buyers and tenants. Seemingly harmless words can get newspapers into trouble. It is important that words used in discriminatory contexts are avoided. Examples are: restricted, exclusive, private, integrated, traditional, board approval required. Some of these words, especially together or in certain local contexts, are used as code to create an atmosphere of discrimination. Beware of code words that carry hidden or subtle discriminatory meanings. When a word causes doubt, do without.

Furthermore, avoid symbols or logos that imply or suggest a preference based on one of the protected classes. Examples: crosses, the Star of David. By expressing a preference for one class of person, other classes are discriminated against. Such use might suggest to outsiders that they are not welcome in such a place. The use of human models in advertising is scrutinized in the same way that words are, because it is possible to indicate a preference for certain types of individuals by using certain kinds of models. The exclusive use of one kind of model can be interpreted as indicating a non-preference for persons in a protected class who do not look like the model. It does not matter whether the models are real individuals appearing in photographs or drawings in artists’ illustrations. When models are used in any series of housing advertisements, provide fair representation, over time, of the different kinds of people found in your market areas. The common sense approach to Fair Housing advertising is to use language or artwork or photography that is inclusive, not exclusive.

There are exemptions under the Fair Housing Act:

– Reasonable restrictions on the maximum number of occupants in a dwelling unit may be made.

– Under certain circumstances, religious organizations and private clubs may limit the sale, rental or occupancy of housing owned or operated for other than commercial purposes.

– The Act does not apply to an owner of a dwelling containing living quarters for no more than four families (if the owner lives in one of the units), not to an owner of single-family dwellings (if the owner has no more than three). Yet it does apply if these same owners use a real estate broker and/or if they use discriminatory advertising.

For further reference of not acceptable, caution, or acceptable words most frequently used in housing advertising see the list of words in the Fair Housing Guide listed below.

Not acceptable: able-bodied, adult living, adult community, adults only, African, agile, alcoholics (no), Asian, bachelor, bachelor pad, blacks (no), blind (no), board approval required, Catholic, Caucasian, Chicano, Chinese, children (no), church(es) near, colored, couple, couples only, crippled (no), deaf (no), drinkers (no), employed (must be) , empty nesters, any ethnic references, exclusive, executive, handicapped (not for), healthy only, Hispanic, impaired (no), Indian, Irish, integrated, Jewish, landlord (description of), Latino, married, mature couple, mature individual, mature person(s), membership approval req., Mexican-American, must comply w/park rules, no play area, # of children, Oriental, Puerto Rican, retarted (no), singles only, Soc. Sec. Ins (no), tenant (description of), white only, mentally handicapped (no), Mormon Temple, nationality, non-drinkers, older person(s), one child, physically fit, quiet tenants, seasonal worker (no), single person, stable, unemployed (no), mentally ill (no), Mosque, newlyweds, non-smokers, one person, Polish, responsible, shrine, smokers (no), synagogue / near temple, white. Caution: active, close to country clubs / near desirable neighborhood, domestic’s quarters, female(s) only, female roommate, fisherman’s retreat, gays (no), gender references, gentleman’s farm, grandma’s house, golden agers only, handyman’s dream, lesbians (no), male(s) only, male roommate, man (men) only, mature, mother-in-law apartment, nanny’s room, near, no student(s), # of persons, prestigious, private, quality neighborhood, restricted, retired, retirees, Section 8 (no), secure, senior(s), senior citizen(s), senior housing, single woman/man, sophisticated, straight only, two people, walking distance of / within, woman (women) only.

Acceptable: bus/MAX (near), credit check required, den, drinking (no), drugs (no), drug users (no), Equal Housing Opportunity, family (great for), family room, fixer-upper, near golf course, hobby farm, luxury townhouse, neighborhood name, nice, # of bedrooms, # of sleeping areas, nursery, nursing home, play area, privacy, private driveway, private entrance, private property, private setting, public transport (near), quality construction, quiet, school district, school name, secluded, security provided, senior discount, (no) smoking, # of square feet, townhouse, traditional style, tranquil setting, verifiable income, with view, view of.

Courtesy of the Iowa Newspaper Association

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