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(Lydia DePillis)

This week’s column is about gay real estate agents who market themselves explicitly to gay clients—even though sexual orientation is already a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. In much of the rest of the country, this isn’t the case. The National Fair Housing Alliance was kind enough to send over some examples of the kinds of things that happen when it’s legal for real estate agents, buyers, and sellers to discriminate against gays and lesbians:

  • In coastal Virginia, property managers told an agent seeking rental housing for her LGBT clients that they would rent only to heterosexual couples but not to same-sex roommates or couples.
  • In central New York, home seekers told their real estate agent they would not make on offer on a home they liked because the agent representing the sellers was gay.
  • In southern California a home seeker told a real estate agent he had started working with that he could no longer do so after discovering the agent was gay on an internet search.
  • In north Texas, a gay real estate agent who had marketed properties in a suburban neighborhood on his website was contacted by a fellow agent who expressed concerns that the marketing would attract home seekers mistaking it for a gay neighborhood when it was in fact conservative.

NFHA has also conducted fair housing tests, in which trained undercover “testers” record objective information about housing practices in the marketplace. Here are a few incidents discovered through testing:

  • In Dallas a real estate agent told a heterosexual couple they would not want to purchase in a certain neighborhood, pointing out an LGBT pride flag as the reason.
  • In another rental situation, two gay men asked to see a one-bedroom apartment in Kansas City were told by an agent nothing was available to view. Minutes later a male-female heterosexual couple expressing in interest in viewing same one-bedroom apartment were invited to see it.
  • Finally, NFHA has also encountered situations where persons have been discriminated against because they are heterosexual. For example, during a rental experience, a real estate agent and owners of a property who were gay would not rent to a heterosexual woman.