Realtors at the center of a recent Newsday investigation into discriminatory practices on Long Island are under review by the local association for potential violations of the fair housing provision of the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics.
The Long Island Board of Realtors (LIBOR) confirmed to Inman this week that its board of directors has charged its grievance committee with conducting an investigation into the alleged fair housing violations.
“Yesterday’s vote is the latest in a series of steps LIBOR leaders have taken in recent weeks to ensure the association is upholding its commitment to fair housing,” a spokesperson for the association said in a statement. “In addition to reviewing the circumstances documented in the Newsday story, LIBOR recently launched an audit of its fair housing training to enhance delivery of instruction. LIBOR is also engaged in conversations with community fair housing groups and other stakeholders.”
Agents at the center of the report were accused of steering undercover investigators to neighborhoods that matched their own race or ethnicity and often subjected minority investigators to more restrictive conditions prior to viewing properties.
LIBOR is now reviewing whether or not the agents in the videos — at least one of whom appears to be seen wearing a Realtor pin in the video — violated the code of ethics.
“Realtors shall not print, display or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to selling or renting of a property that indicates any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” the NAR Code of Ethics reads.
NAR President Vince Malta told Inman in a statement, that the association was deeply troubled to review the results of the investigation, which it says does not reflect the ethical commitment made by 1.4 million Realtors.
“NAR has spent decades defending the Fair Housing Act and the critical role it plays in protecting this fundamental human right,” Malta said. “Housing discrimination violates NAR’s Code of Ethics along with federal, state and local laws, and NAR maintains its strong support of fair housing testing to unmask housing discrimination and hold our industry to the highest standard.”
“In addition to broadening our policy to extend federal Fair Housing Act protections to LGBTQ persons, NAR recently created a 42-member Fair Housing Committee, which will continue to promote and emphasize these critical national issues,” Malta added.
When asked if NAR had knowledge of any of the agents at the center of the association being Realtors and if it planned to take any disciplinary action, a spokesperson for the association referred Inman to LIBOR.
NAR’s response, however, has drawn criticism from some in the industry.
“If the Code of Ethics — often invoked in situations like this and given a loving public massage — is to achieve its fullest meaning, then it must compel action at an institutional level,” Brian Boero, a partner at 1000Watt Consulting and occasional Inman contributor, wrote on his blog. “That action, in this case, should be revocation of the membership of every last Realtor implicated in this report.”
Agents may face disciplinary action outside of NAR or LIBOR, however, as state lawmakers have introduced legislation in the wake of the Newsday investigation.
State Senator Jim Gaughran and Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean Pierre are both planning to introduce a bill that would add “violation of the human rights law” into the reasons a broker or agent’s license could be suspended, according to Newsday.
“Housing discrimination of any kind cannot be tolerated, and I’m proud to be working with [Senator Jim Gaughran] on this important legislation that will give New York State another tool to help root out this egregious behavior,” Pierre said, on Twitter.
The agents at the center of the investigation, as well as their responses to the videos, were compiled by Newsday here.