Guide to fair housing regulations for advertising in South Carolina newspapers
The U.S. Fair Housing Act allows newspapers to be charged with violations of the act for printing ads that are discriminatory.
Fines for publishing discriminatory ads can be as high as $10,000 for a first offense. Occasional slip-ups probably will not be subject to penalties, but a newspaper can be held liable for such ads. Caution is recommended.
All advertisements for residential property for sale or rent should include the words: “Equal Housing Opportunity” or the equal housing logo below:
It is recommended that the following notice be run at the beginning of the real estate section of your classified ads:
Publisher’s Notice: We are pledged to the letter and spirit of the U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing. All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin, or intention to make any such preferences, limitations or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate that is in violation of the law.
It is against the law to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of housing.
It is against the law to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of housing for the reasons of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or handicap. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 also deals with advertising, and newspapers may face legal problems if they run ads that encourage discrimination or even indicate a preference on the grounds stated above.
Selective use should be avoided.
According to HUD, selective use of media or content may violate the law. This could include the following:
- Advertising using human models should reasonably represent the majority and minority groups in the metropolitan area.
- Advertisers should not exclusively use human models of only one particular sex, or adults only, to indicate preferences for one sex or the other or for adults without children.
Post and provide copies of your policy.
HUD regulations state that all publishers of advertisements should provide a printed copy of their nondiscriminatory policy to each employee or officer. Publishers should also post a copy of their policy in a conspicuous location wherever persons place ads. Copies of the policy should be available for all firms and persons using their advertising services.
The key to fair housing advertising is to know the exemptions to the federal Fair Housing Law. The following are exemptions:
- Housing for older people is exempt from the act if:
- the housing is specifically designed to meet the needs of elderly people under a state or federal program and is occupied by people 62 years old or older,
- or has at least 80% of occupancy of units containing at least one person age 55 or older and is designed to meet the needs of older people.
Advertising can reflect the age of tenants sought in these cases:
- Private clubs and housing by religious organizations are exempt from most of the Fair Housing Act. They still cannot discriminate according to race, color or national origin.
- Housing by tenants seeking roommates can advertise a sex preference. However, a roommate wanted ad cannot discriminate according to religion, race or color.
- Owners who live in a duplex, triplex or quadplex are exempt from the act when advertising for tenants to occupy the remaining apartments. This only applies to buildings with four families or fewer.
- All landlords who have an interest in no more than three single family houses are exempt from the act.
- Housing restricted to use by handicapped people can be advertised as such.
Words that can lead to violations in housing ads
Under the U.S. Fair Housing Act, the following words could lead to a perceived violation:
This list should be used as a guide for those persons editing copy for housing advertisements, so that they may avoid violating the South Carolina and federal Fair Housing Act. This list should not be used as a substitute for legal advice nor to provide a defense in the event of a charge of discrimination arising from a specific incident. This list does not include every word/phrase that could violate fair housing laws. However, it does contain words/phrases that may be construed as violating laws, problematic or questionable.
- Adult Building or Community
- Adult Living
- Adult(s) Only, Preferred
- Children, No
- Children, OK
- Church, Close to/Near
- Color (any, when used to describe persons)
- Employed, Must Be
- Empty Nester(s)
- Ethnic Group (any)
- Exclusive Neighborhood or Street
- Ideal for (type of person)
- Independently, Capable of Living
- Living Alone, Capable of
- Mentally Handicapped, Ill
- Middle Eastern(er)
- Mixed Community, Near
- Mosque, Close to, Near
- Nationality (any)
- Older Person(s)
- One Child (or any number)
- One Person (or any number)
- Parish, Close to/Near
- Parish, Name of
- Person(s), Number of (any number)
- Physically Fit
- Puerto Rican
- Race (any when describing persons)
- Rent Calculated Per Person
- Retired Person(s)
- Seasonal Worker(s)
- Section 8, No
- Senior Discount
- Senior Housing
- Senior(s) Welcome
- SSD (Social Security Disability), No
- SSI (Social Security Insurance), No
- Suitable for … Person(s)
- Synagogue(s) Close to to/Near
- Temple, Close to/Near
- U.S. Citizen
- Working, Must Be
For a complete listing of phrases, including questionable and legal words, download our alphabetical list of words/phrases connected with advertisements for housing sales/rentals.
For more detailed information, on HUD regulations, contact HUD’s Atlanta Satellite Office.
This guide is not designed to give legal advice. Further, it is not the view of SCPA that newspapers are liable under this statute. This information is to help you formulate ad policies and make your own judgments.