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OPINION: Subprime Blame: Where Were the Realtors?

October 24, 2007
While much criticism has been leveled at subprime lenders and mortgage brokers, there has been little focus on the role of the Realtors, even though the agent often serves as the homebuyer's chief advisor.
     Many Realtors help buyers find loans by recommending lenders or mortgage brokers. Real estate agents typically spend much more time with homebuyers than mortgage brokers and lenders do, and presumably could issue warnings about risky loan products.
     Thus, real estate agents have yet to receive their fair share of the blame for the subprime mess, says Shanna Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance.
     "I think the greed factor works with agents as well as loan originators," Smith said. "It is my experience that real estate agents have been pushing people to buy more expensive homes than they were initially qualified to buy under 30-year, fixed-rate [loan]s."

OPINION: Others post, you get sued

October 24, 2007
The stakes are enormous. The question is serious. Under what circumstances will the law hold interactive computer services liable for content posted by others on their sites?
     This issue surfaced recently in a dispute involving Roommates.com, a Web site where applicants complete online questionnaires to locate roommates. In a federal lawsuit, the Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego in California complained that the Web site violated the Fair Housing Act and certain state laws.
     A federal appellate court was called upon to determine whether the site was entitled to immunity under the terms of the Communications Decency Act. The CDA provides that "(no) provider...of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
     The key point is that interactive computer services are granted legal immunity with respect to content created by others. Indeed, the grant of immunity applies to a defendant that is the "provider...of an interactive computer service" and that is being sued "as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by" another.

Are housing and real estate becoming weapons in national immigration debate?

September 17, 2007
by Kenneth R. Harney
     Housing is becoming a key tactical weapon in dozens of communities seeking to reduce the number of undocumented resident aliens, according to a new study. During the past 24 months, immigration-control ordinances in 104 cities and counties in 28 states have either been proposed or adopted. Of the 104, 43 included rental restrictions that threatened to penalize landlords for knowingly -- or innocently -- leasing space to undocumented individuals.

What about the guy next door?

August 14, 2007
Many of the negligent security cases castigate the property owner for failure to protect residents from criminals who are able to enter the premises. They ask the courts to demand that landlords provide security guards, locked gates, and special lighting. But none of these precautions against outsiders can prevent tenant-on-tenant crime.
     If there is a duty on the part of the landlord to protect the tenant against criminal acts perpetrated by a fellow tenant, landlords of both residential and commercial properties may then be found to have a duty to investigate their tenants, both prospectively and continuously during the tenancy, to determine the tenant's propensity for criminal behavior. The landlord would have to decide whether to screen prospective tenants for criminal propensity, refuse to rent to such individuals, or evict tenants who are potentially dangerous to other tenants. If the landlord does take action to protect other tenants, the landlord may face claims from the dangerous tenant who has been subjected to the landlord's protective actions.

Written Rejection Bill for Co-ops Gains Traction

May 23, 2007
Historically, co-op boards in New York City haven’t been required to provide much of an explanation to applicants about why applications for co-ops are rejected.
     Many applicants with good financial portfolios, good references and good credit ratings are still denied an apartment, causing a lot of bad feeling and bewilderment. (Of course, there are situations where co-op applicants are told why they are rejected—in the case of a bad credit report, for example.)

Lender discrimination based on property type or location?

May 21, 2007
Just about everybody active in real estate knows that mortgage lenders are required to treat loan applicants equally and fairly, approving applications on the basis of creditworthiness, not race, gender, age, disability or religion.
     But what about lenders who discriminate against certain types of properties or real estate locations-properties that have direct connections to one of those protected categories of home buyers?

Fair Housing More Than Just Skin Color

April 27, 2007
The arduous quest for fair housing began more than 140 years ago with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 when Congress passed the first bill aimed at providing civil rights to freed slaves and those blacks who were born on U.S. soil. However, it took 100 more years (in 1968) before laws were passed to guarantee equal treatment in the area of housing.
     Fast forward to today and the struggle for fair housing has bloomed to a fan of protected classes beyond color. The seven federal protected classes include color, race, national origin, sex (gender), religion, familial status and disability. On the state and local level, however, jurisdictions have created even more classes to protect against housing discrimination.

Can homeowner association bar worship at its clubhouse?

February 21, 2007
Until 2004 the Savanna Club Worship Service Inc. conducted its worship services in the Savanna Homeowners Association clubhouse or common areas. But the homeowner association received numerous complaints from its members regarding use of the common areas for religious services.
     One of the reasons for the complaints was such usage was contrary to the stated purpose of making the common areas available for use and enjoyment of the members of the association.

How discrimination in real estate killes the american dream

February 07, 2007
Discrimination in real estate, specifically "steering," the process of profiling prospective buyers based on race, color, nationality, religion, sex, lifestyle, or disability, to housing in areas where certain groups are deemed to "belong," is an issue rarely discussed openly in our industry, but nonetheless, is an ongoing crime that needs to be brought to light and put to an end.

Fair housing a good approach for integrating U.S. schools

January 26, 2007
With the U.S. Supreme Court likely to strike down voluntary school desegregation programs in Seattle and Louisville, the best next option for those committed to an open, integrated society is an emboldened fair housing movement.
     Continued high levels of segregation in the nation's neighborhoods, fueled primarily by persistent discrimination in the housing market, will condemn a majority of public school students to a segregated and inferior education in the absence of either voluntary school desegregation initiatives or more integrated housing patterns.

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