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By Charlestien Harris:

We’re all familiar with advertising. It’s essentially an invitation to buy, sell, or use a product or service. Yet in a world where advertising is everywhere, surprisingly few people know it is illegal to advertise in a discriminatory manner regarding housing – and even more surprising is how often it happens.

In fiscal year 2020, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) and its fair housing partner organizations investigated more than 7,500 complaints alleging such discrimination.

As background, the mission of the FHEO is to eliminate housing discrimination, promote economic opportunity, and achieve diverse, inclusive communities. They lead the nation in the enforcement, administration, development, and public understanding of federal fair housing policies and laws, and they implement and enforce laws that protect people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. Additionally, the FHEO ensures fair housing and civil rights compliance by recipients of HUD funding and in HUD programs.

Section 3604(c) of the Fair Housing Act, states that it is illegal to make or cause to be made, printed or published, any notice, statement or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling, that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination.

This applies to media outlets and advertising agencies, sales firms, real estate professionals and management companies.

If it is found that a classified advertisement, display advertisement, insert or any other type of real estate advertisement is published with discriminatory language, the person or agency that placed the advertisement is liable, along with the publisher that printed the advertisement.

Generally, a housing advertisement should describe the property itself, and not the potential occupant. For example, an advertisement for a housing unit stating “no children” would be considered discriminatory, as it limits families with children from occupying that unit and therefore violates the familial status provision of the Fair Housing Act. If it is found that an advertisement is indeed discriminatory, both the publisher and the advertiser can be held liable.

If you feel you are a victim of housing discrimination or currently experiencing housing discrimination you can report such activity to your HUD offices. To file a complaint, you can go to To find your local HUD office nearest you go to  It is very important to report these instances of housing discrimination, because when you report this kind of activity, it helps to open equal opportunities for all that are seeking decent and affordable housing across the entire country.

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