REALTORS® are active proponents of providing equal professional service to all individuals during the home search and property transaction process. As an organization, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB) and Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® (GBAR) support and promote state and federal fair housing laws and the goal of home ownership for all.
To that end, REALTORS® have worked to expand the list of protected classes under fair housing law, and both GBAR and GBREB have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies, such as the Boston Office of Fair Housing & Equity, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Massachusetts Fair Housing Commission, and U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to educate and train real estate agents and brokers on anti-discriminatory behavior and their responsibilities under fair housing law.
Broadly, state and federal law prohibit discrimination in the sale and rental of housing by property owners, landlords, property managers, mortgage lenders, and real estate agents and brokers. In Massachusetts, it is unlawful for a housing provider to discriminate against a current or prospective tenant or home buyer based on:
• National Origin
• Familial Status (i.e. children)
• Marital Status
• Sexual Orientation
• Gender Identity
• Source of Income (e.g. a Section 8 voucher)
• Veteran or Active Military Status
• Genetic Information
Some examples of unlawful practices include:
- Refusing to rent to you, or charging you higher rent or other fees, based on one of these protected characteristics.
- Steering you away from particular properties or rental units based on one of these protected characteristics.
- Failing or refusing to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including exceptions to policies (for example, a "no pets" policy) or reasonable physical modifications (i.e. grab bars or wheelchair ramps).
- Refusing to give you a mortgage, or charging you higher fees, based on any of the protected characteristics listed above.
- Threatening to report you to immigration authorities so that you or your family members will be afraid to exercise any of your rights under the law.
Ethical and Professional Standard Enforcement
Licensed agents and brokers who belong to GBAR/GBREB or another chapter of the REALTOR® organization must adhere to a national Code of Ethics which sets forth standards of practice for serving the public, clients and customers, and fellow REALTORS®. Importantly, Article 10 of the Code stipulates that REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Among the standards of practice of Article 10 is a provision that REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Further, Article 10 mandates that REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
If you have been denied housing, charged a higher amount of rent or fees, subjected to harassment, or otherwise treated unfairly by a housing provider as a result of your status as a member of a protected class, you may file a complaint with the:
For real estate licenses who are REALTORS®, you may file an ethics complaint with their local REALTOR® association. To file a complaint against a member of the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS®, you can access our online and printable complaint forms and learn more about the ethics complaint process here.
For more information on legal rights & responsibilities for tenants and landlords check out these resources: