National Association of Realtors® Apologizes for Complicity in Discrimination
Throughout the 20th Century, Realtors® opposed Fair Housing regulation and participated in discriminatory practices. Since the adoption of the Fair Housing Act (1968), the Association accepted that Fair Housing was the law of the land, required members to follow the law, provided classes to prepare members to follow the law, but also turned a blind eye to discrimination in both housing and hiring practices.
The current leadership is taking responsibility to do better. They also called out the history that aided America’s segregated housing. Full text of apology.
“What Realtors® did was an outrage to our morals and our ideals. It was a betrayal of our commitment to fairness and equality. I’m here today, as the President of the National Association of Realtors®, to say that we were wrong,” Oppler said. “We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye. And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors® did was shameful, and we are sorry.”
Changes in the Code of Ethics:
Is someone who participates in discriminatory speech (or hate speech) in their social settings trustworthy to practice Fair Housing Laws? The National Association of Realtors® says “No.”
As part of their change of direction regarding Fair Housing, the National Association of Realtors® is expecting their membership to provide professional service to all people. Towards that end, there’s a new standard of practice being added to the Fair Housing Section of the Realtor Code of Ethics. It prohibits discriminatory or hate speech by Realtors®.
How is this different? Weren’t Realtors® always prohibited from using discriminatory speech? Nope.
Prior to this moment, The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) prohibited discriminatory behavior in professional contexts. Realtors® followed the law, but in their social settings, they did not have to respect civil rights. And many didn’t, and don’t.
As of November 2020, real estate licensees who want to call themselves Realtors® (members of the National Association of Realtors, which is a professional guild and lobbying organization) must adhere to these changes to in the Code of Ethics. (Full text of the change).
Against Discrimination: New Standard of Practice 10-5
A new Standard of Practice under Article 10 was adopted. This new Standard of Practice is effective November 13, 2020.
Standard of Practice 10-5 REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Rationale: This proposed Standard of Practice directly flows from the requirement to not deny equal professional services or be parties to a plan to discriminate. Specifically, bias against protected classes revealed through the public posting of hate speech could result in REALTORS® not taking clients from certain protected classes or not treating them equally, which would lead to violations of the Fair Housing Act due to overt discrimination or disparate impact. [bolding mine]
I went to a training on this addition to the Code of Ethics. The trainer directly addressed how Realtor® members are discriminating by using harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Using such language, personally, reduces access for people in protected classes. Who would want to hire a Realtor® who uses harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs directed at their identity group? Who would want to work in an office where coworkers or managers used harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs?
The inevitable “cancel culture” charge was laid, as a comment in the chat. The trainer was ready. He had an example to show that this is not about who you support for President, or any other political stand. This is about opposing discrimination in housing and employment at real estate firms. This standard of practice is about following those laws.
The prohibition is clear: you must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The example that the trainer chose was a Realtor® who videoed her activity during the rally and attack on America’s Capitol building on January 6. She did not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs. She has a political agenda and she has a right to advertise it. She faces no repercussions regarding her membership in NAR, unless she is convicted of a felony for her behavior that day. (Illegal conduct is cause for expulsion).
I am pleased that the National Association of Realtors® are making efforts to address member complicity in housing discrimination (and hiring discrimination within firms). This is a positive step, backed by policy changes.
I have to say this:
I have been a Realtor® since 1991. I disagree with them frequently, because their agenda is to support the rights of real estate property owners. Therefore, as an exclusive buyer’s agent, I see the rights of my buyer clients getting second-class treatment. Realtors® have big lobbying power. They use it to support property owners.
I disagree when they take stances on the following items. Since my dues support these efforts, it is particularly irksome:
- Anti-regulatory stands (since environmental regulation, waterway rules, and such cost property owners more to protect the local environment).
- Opposition to transfer fees to support affordable housing initiatives.
- Weakening of agency laws, allowing firms to represent the fiduciary interests of both the buyer and seller of the same property. This required a disclosure of dual agency until the early 2000s. Now, in Massachusetts, it is renamed “designated agency” and is common practice.
But I am giving credit where credit is due.