Military status: A new protected class

by Peg Ritenour
Vice President
Legal Services

A law, signed by Gov. Strickland, will provide greater protections and benefits to members of the Armed Forces beginning March 24, 2008.

HB 372 accomplishes this in a variety of ways. Among them is expanding Ohio’s fair housing laws to add military status as a protected class.

As licensees are well aware, Ohio’s fair housing laws prohibit discrimination against any person in the sale, lease or financing of housing accommodations because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, ancestry, disability or national origin. HB 372 also makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their military status as of March 24.

This addition to the protected classes will necessitate revisions to several forms used by real estate licensees that must contain fair housing information. They are:

  • the fair housing poster and pamphlets;
  • the Consumer Guide to Agency Relationships; and
  • written agency agreements.

The Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing has indicated that it will be reprinting the fair housing poster that is required to be hung in all broker’s offices to reflect military status as a protected class. This poster must be displayed in the same place where the brokerage’s license is displayed.

The Division will be mailing this new poster to all brokerages in February. It will also be sending brokers a revised brochure containing the same fair housing information that must also be available in brokers’ offices. Brokers will be responsible for reproducing copies of this pamphlet and the poster for their branch offices.

Under the license law there are two other types of documents that must contain mandatory fair housing language that will be impacted by HB 372. The first is the brokerage’s Consumer Guide to Agency Relationships. The second is any written agency agreement the brokerage uses. Under Ohio law, agency agreements include listings, buyer agency contracts, tenant representation agreements, auction agreements, and property management contracts involving residential property and vacant land.

Under HB 372 the agency agreements, as well as the Consumer Guide to Agency Relationships, must contain the following fair housing statement (the new language is underlined merely to highlight it, but such underlining is not required when you print these forms).

Fair Housing Statement:

It is illegal, pursuant to the Ohio fair housing law, division (H) of section 4112.02 of the Revised Code, and the federal fair housing law, 42 U.S.C.A. 3601, as amended, to refuse to sell, transfer, assign, rent, lease, sublease, or finance housing accommodations, refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of housing accommodations, or otherwise deny or make unavailable housing accommodations because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status as defined in section 4112.01 of the Revised Code, ancestry, military status as defined in that section, disability as defined in that section, or national origin or to so discriminate in advertising the sale or rental of housing, in the financing of housing, or in the provision of real estate brokerage services. It is also illegal, for profit, to induce or attempt to induce a person to sell or rent a dwelling by representations regarding the entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons belonging to one of the protected classes.

As mentioned earlier, HB 372 becomes effective on March 24. Therefore, it is necessary for brokers to modify the fair housing language in their agency agreements and their Consumer Guide to Agency Relationships to add the underlined language at left. Any local Boards of REALTORS that provide listing or other agency agreements to their members will also need to also revise these forms. The new language is only necessary in forms signed after March 24; it is not necessary to have clients or customers who signed these documents prior to that date re-execute them.

The Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing has indicated that local boards and brokerages that wish to deplete any existing supply of these forms can comply with the new law in a few different ways after March 24. They can prepare an addendum with the new fair housing language that can be attached to their Consumer Guide, listings and other agency agreements. Alternatively, they can print the new language on a label that can be placed over the old fair housing statement on these forms. Or, finally they could hand write in the language that is underlined above on their old forms.

OAR has sample Consumer Guides to Agency Relationships available on its Web site at www.ohiorealtors.org. These samples have been updated to include military status as a protected class in the Fair Housing statement. Although the new language is not required until March 24, brokers can begin using the revised Consumer Guides sooner if they wish.