HUD Issues Advertising Guidance Notice To Curb Unreasonable Interpretations & Complaints

Roberta Achtenberg, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity has issued a new Guidance Notice which seeks to avoid "unreasonable" interpretations of HUD's Advertising Guidelines.

The four page memo issued in January provides a commonsense interpretation that should lessen filing of extraneous complaints while concentrating on ads that are clearly in violation. The Notice says publishers are responsible for ads that violate the Ac t on its face, but not where a preference, limitation or discrimination is not readily apparent to an ordinary reader.

Among many examples in the Notice in which complaints should not be filed:

1."Use of the term master bedroom does not constitute a violation of either the sex discrimination provisions or the race discrimination provisions."

2."...staff should not file a family status complaint against a publisher of an advertisement if the advertisement indicates on its face that it is housing for older persons."

3.Use of the terms Santa Claus, or Easter Bunny do not violate the Act.

The Advocate has received reports of real estate operators who were falsely claiming they could not use the term "Master bedroom."

While the new Notice is addressed internally to HUD fair housing officials, it will have much wider impact because it will be followed by fair housing groups, attorneys, and state and local officials etc.

The courts require public agencies to follow their own guidelines. The latest Notice should save agencies from "wheel spinning" over peripheral issues.

Four earlier Guidance Notices issued last year covered the subjects of Disparate Impact in Fair Housing Cases, Intake Procedures, Limitations on First Amendment Filings, and Administrative Closures.

Copies of the Advertising Guidance Notice, and the four earlier Guidance Notices can be obtained from Sara Pratt, FHEO Director of Investigations, Department of HUD, 451 Seventh ST SW, Washington D.C. 20026 (202)708-0836 ext 221.