Black History Month celebrates the achievements of African Americans and recognizes their central role in American history. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate the advancement of civil rights, and highlight the deficiencies that still exist.

One way to ensure progress continues is by asserting the rights that we all share, and speaking out when they are violated. The home buying process is no exception.  

Equal Opportunity

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, the Fair Housing Act is intended to protect against discrimination when renting, buying or financing a home. The legislation makes it illegal to treat any consumers differently because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.

Protections Start with the Search

The Fair Housing Act protects throughout the buying and renting process, including your interactions with a real estate agent. Agents cannot steer your housing search based on any of these characteristics. For example, they can’t tell you a neighborhood is limited to certain races or religions, nor could they show you homes based on those criteria, even at your own request.  

Similarly, sellers and landlords cannot change their price or terms to discriminate against buyers in a protected category. Rejecting an offer solely on the basis of these factors would be a clear violation of the law.

Discrimination in Lending

Protection against discrimination also extends to banks and mortgage companies. While the terms of a loan may vary due to your finances and credit history, the color of your skin, country of origin, or other features should not play a role.

The demographics of your neighborhood are also irrelevant. One of the most egregious practices in lending, and a driving force behind the creation of the Fair Housing Act, was known as redlining. It occurred when financial institutions would restrict lending to entire geographic regions, typically targeting people of color who were otherwise qualified to borrow. Placing an entire segment of the population at this sort of disadvantage had a devastating impact that still reverberates today.

Reporting a Violation

If you think you have been the victim of housing discrimination, you can submit an online claim to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  A specialist will review your complaint and help you file an official housing discrimination complaint, if necessary.

For a mortgage partner willing to help all of its clients reach their goal, consider contacting an Open Mortgage specialist today.

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