Fair Housing — Understanding Realtor Requirements

keith-1Today we look at the impacts of the regulations and statutes affecting discrimination or discriminatory actions in the real estate community. As always be aware of the issues that arise with each transaction that you engage in and also the ones you do not engage.

As always, if you have any questions about your real estate, business, estate planning, or any other legal issue, please let us know by e-mailing me at kbdunnagan@bpelaw.com.

Also, remember that we do legal presentations for business and community organizations. If your group would like this, please contact Steve or me to set up a date and time.


Fair Housing — Understanding Realtor Requirements   
By: Stephen J. Beede and D. Keith B. Dunnagan, Esq.

California has a large body of laws that together provide substantial protections for buyers and existing or prospective tenants when it comes to housing. In short, the law prohibits discrimination in at least 14 areas including: Race, Religion, Disability, Gender, Medical Condition, Sexual Orientation, and more. Common violations of the Fair Housing laws include: Refusal to sell, rent, or lease housing accommodations; Denial of a home loan or homeowner’s insurance; and Representation that a housing accommodation is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when that accommodation is in fact available.

While in general enforcement is through the CA Dept of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) as well as private legal actions by offended persons, actions against Realtors and other real estate licensees is generally brought by the CA Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) through enforcement of the Business & Professions Code and BRE Regulations.

Significantly, Disciplinary Actions against real estate professionals are not limited to the agent’s own discriminatory conduct. BRE Regulation 2780 prohibits any such discriminatory conduct and subjects any violating real estate licensee with Disciplinary Actions. Significantly, Regulation 2780(dd) states: “Assisting or aiding in any way, any person in the sale, rental or financing of the purchase of real property where there are reasonable grounds to believe that such person intends to discriminate because of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, physical handicap, marital status or national origin”. This simply means that a licensee is liable if they know or should know that the Seller / Lessor or any other agent in a transaction intends to discriminate. Penalties for violations can range from fines to suspensions, to license revocation.

As attorneys, we regularly examine legal actions brought against members of the Bar so that we can be aware of the scope of violations and be certain our own practices are in legal compliance. And you should too. Each month, BRE publishes a listing of all the Disciplinary Actions. For example, in February 2018, they reported on 122 separate Actions. All real estate licensees – especially brokers supervising agents – should review this report periodically to be certain that their own conduct would not reasonably subject them to Discipline. Further, they must be sure that they, and any agents they supervise, take any required Fair Housing courses and actually put those teachings into action in their day-to-day practice.

Lastly, prompt action is a must if you should receive a notice or phone call from BRE. BRE investigators often call with a question or to request a meeting. You may also receive a letter requesting that you produce documents. While it is important to show a willingness to cooperate, you should always give yourself the time to make an informed decision, including finding out why BRE has contacted you. Obtaining the advice of experienced legal counsel is always a good idea before responding and, if you desire, your attorney can attend any meeting with BRE. Never ever ignore any communication from BRE. Failure to timely respond could be treated as an admission of guilt and subject you range of penalties including loss of your real estate license.

The attorneys of BPE Law Group, PC. have been advising our clients on real estate and business issues for over 20 years and have significant experience navigating the licensing and administrative regulations that all California Real Estate Agents must adhere too. If you have questions concerning any legal matter, give us a call at (916) 966-2260 or e-mail Keith at kbdunnagan@bpelaw.com. Our flat fee consults for new clients may get you the answers you need for the questions you have.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.