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March 18, 2013

Buying or Selling a Home

The Fair Housing Act

Can a homeowner legally refuse to sell a home to a potential buyer?

The Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, covers housing discrimination. This law prohibits housing discrimination by real estate firms and homeowners. This means that homeowners may not refuse to lease or sell property based on race, religion, gender, color, or national origin. In some localities, special housing discrimination ordinances or laws also cover sexual orientation. This does not mean, however, that sellers must sell you their home. It means that you could take legal action if the seller refuses to sell and you believe it was due to discrimination.

A homeowner can face serious financial penalties if found in violation of this law. The potential buyer could sue for actual monetary losses as well as attorney's fees, court costs, and even punitive damages.

A homeowner may lawfully discriminate on economic grounds. Without too much fear of legal action, a seller could refuse the bid of a buyer with a poor credit rating or inability to obtain a loan. The homeowner's argument could be that he or she cannot be forced to remove the home from the market while waiting for a loan commitment that had little chance of materializing. Perhaps the safest thing for the seller to do if the economic viability of an offer is in question is to tell the buyer that offer might be accepted once the loan commitment is obtained—if no other offers were received in the interim.

>>Can a homeowner legally refuse to sell a home to a potential buyer?
>>What is steering?
>>How can I tell if discrimination is occurring, and what can I do about it?

Practical Law Home | Buying or Selling a Home | Basics of Buying a Home
Basics of Selling a Home | Why Real Estate Is Covered By Special Laws | Real Estate Brokers
The Purchase Contract | Financing a Home Purchase | The Closing | *The Fair Housing Act*
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