What Kinds of Actions are Discriminatory?
Housing discrimination can take many forms, including these examples:
Remember: If you buy a multi-family house and become a landlord, you are responsible for upholding the fair housing laws!
- Steering – If you are African American being directed to neighborhoods with only African Americans, or if you are Latino to neighborhoods with only Latinos etc.
- Different prices for different people – For example, the price told to a family with children, or someone who is Asian, or someone with a disability, is different than the price told to a family without those characteristics.
- Different terms and conditions for different people – For example, Latino buyers are required to bring a mortgage pre-approved letter before looking at properties, but non-Latino buyers are shown properties without being pre-approved.
- Outright denial of housing or services – For example “I can’t sell you this house because it has lead paint and you have children” or “I think you would be much more comfortable working with my colleague who is Asian”.
These laws apply to banks and mortgage companies as well. When you are looking for a mortgage, it is essential to compare loan offers from different banks and mortgage companies. Be wary of mortgage brokers who tell you there are no other options or who advertise "No credit? Bad credit? No problem!" Don’t let yourself feel pressured into a mortgage that is not right for you. Here are some ways to avoid problems:
- Educate yourself. Take a First Time Homebuyer course and understand the industry terminology.
- Be a smart consumer. Shop around and compare mortgage products.
- Get your finances in order. Know how much you can afford.
- Talk to someone you trust who isn’t going to make any money from the deal.
- Never agree to a loan if you don't have the income to cover all of your monthly debts, including the mortgage!
- Get copies of all documents before closing, and read them carefully. If you do not understand them, seek help in reviewing them.
- Get a second opinion. Contact a community organization to obtain financial counseling before you sign any documents, or seek advice from an attorney.
The Massachusetts lead law, in conjunction with fair housing laws, makes it illegal for a property owner or real estate agent to refuse to sell a home to a family with children because of the presence of lead paint. It is the seller’s responsibility to inform you of the dangers of lead paint, the lead law, and all information they have about the presence of lead paint in the property (e.g. copies of all lead inspection reports). Once you own a home, it is your responsibility to de-lead if you have children under the age of six living there. Refusing to rent to families with children is against the law! It is the landlord’s obligation to de-lead their rental properties.
There are funds available to help owners de-lead. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program will refer you to your local city/town resource. For more information call (617) 624-5757 or (800) 532-9571 or go online at www.mass.gov\dph. For information on the City of Newton’s hazard abatement program call the Newton Housing Rehabilitation Fund at 617-796-1150.
If you think you have been discriminated against...
Contact the Newton Human Rights Commission and File a Complaint. Your claim will be reviewed and investigated, and if appropriate, the Commission will try to resolve it by working directly with both sides.