Disability and Advertising Compliance

QUESTION: In one of my listings, I said that the home is “within easy walking distance of public transit.” Another agent has now called our AE and complained that my listing violates  Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, because many people with disabilities cannot walk. I don’t want to risk a formal complaint being filed against me, but I also don’t feel like my listing  violates any rules. Is my advertisement in compliance?

ANSWER: It appears your listing is in compliance with the Code.

Article 10 of the Code of Ethics states, in part: “REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status,  national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” Standard of Practice 10-3 gives further guidance as to advertising in particular: “REALTORS® shall not print, display or circulate  any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability,  familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

With very few exceptions, agents should only use factual language to describe property for sale and avoid describing what type of person might want to buy (or not buy) the property.  Ads that mention a phrase such as “not suitable for disabled persons” would likely violate Article 10. Phrases that describe property characteristics, such as “third-floor walk-up,” or  neighborhood characteristics, such as “train access in walking distance” would likely not violate Article 10. NC REALTORS® does not have a word and phrase guideline list, however,  other organizations do that you may want to review for general ideas to keep in compliance.

It’s also worth noting if a listing violates Article 10, that listing also likely violates local, state, and federal fair housing laws. Be sure to scrutinize your advertisements carefully and do not forget to submit each one to your BIC for review.

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Filed Under: Code of Ethics,