What You Can and Can’t Disclose to Your Clients as a Real Estate Agent in North Carolina

As a real estate agent in North Carolina, it’s crucial to understand the legal boundaries set by the Fair Housing Act to ensure you’re serving your clients ethically and lawfully. The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that aims to eliminate housing discrimination and promote residential integration. 

However, navigating what you can and cannot disclose to your clients can be tricky. This blog post will clarify these guidelines, helping you provide the best service while staying compliant with the law.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968, prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. This act applies to all aspects of housing, including renting, selling, and financing homes. As a real estate agent, adhering to these guidelines is not only a legal obligation but also a cornerstone of ethical practice. Violating the Fair Housing Act can lead to severe penalties, including fines and legal action.

What Real Estate Agents Cannot Disclose

Under the Fair Housing Act, a real estate agent is generally prohibited from commenting on the demographic makeup of a specific neighborhood in relation to its residents because offering insights or details about the people in a community can be viewed as discriminatory, regardless of the agent’s intent. This includes:

Neighborhood Crime Rates

Discussing crime rates can be interpreted as steering clients away from certain areas, which can be discriminatory. Even if well-intentioned, sharing this information can lead to unintentional bias and violate the Fair Housing Act. 

If your clients ask about neighborhood crime rates, be prepared to direct them to the proper resources to find the information for themselves.

Demographic Makeup

Agents must avoid discussing the racial, ethnic, or religious composition of neighborhoods. Providing such information can influence a buyer’s decision based on discriminatory factors, which is strictly prohibited under the Fair Housing Act.

School District Reputation

While parents often inquire about schools, discussing the reputation or perceived quality of a school district can be problematic. This information can be tied to socioeconomic and racial demographics, which should not influence housing decisions.

Once again, be prepared to refer your clients to resources where they can find information on the school district for a home they are interested in for themselves.

What Real Estate Agents Can Disclose

As an advisor to your clients, a realtor is allowed to, and should, provide information and opinions to your clients on real estate values and physical aspects of the home and the location itself.

Real Estate Values

Agents can and should provide comprehensive information on property values and market trends. This includes recent sale prices, appreciation rates, and the overall health of the housing market in the area. 

Physical Aspects of the Home

Discussing the physical characteristics of a home is essential. This includes the condition of the property, age, size, amenities, and any renovations or repairs needed. Providing a clear picture of the home itself helps clients make informed decisions.

Community Features

Agents can talk about non-discriminatory community features, such as proximity to parks, public transportation, shopping centers, and other amenities. This information is valuable for clients without crossing into discriminatory territory.

Homeowner Association (HOA) Rules

Providing your clients with details on HOA regulations, fees, and community guidelines is crucial. This helps clients understand the responsibilities and benefits of living in a community governed by an HOA, and how that can impact their homeownership experience and property use.

Partner with Starling Law Firm

Navigating the complexities of real estate disclosures under the Fair Housing Act can be challenging. Ensuring compliance while providing valuable information to clients is a delicate balance. Partnering with an experienced real estate attorney can help safeguard against potential legal pitfalls and enhance the service you offer to your clients.

At Starling Law Firm, we have extensive experience in real estate law and can assist you in understanding and adhering to your legal responsibilities. We offer comprehensive legal support to ensure that your real estate transactions are smooth and compliant. Contact us today to learn how we can support you in your real estate transactions.