The National Association of Realtors wants all real estate licensees — not just their 1.5 million members — to be required to complete fair housing training to obtain and renew their licenses.
At the trade group’s semi-annual Realtors Legislative Meetings earlier this month, NAR’s Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved several policies affecting fair housing. Association committees also referred some to working groups for further examination. Here is an overview:
Education for all licensees
The Board approved a policy presented by the NAR Policy Committee on State and Local Affairs stating that the trade group would encourage its state associations to promote legislation or regulation that would require:[a] specific minimum hours” of fair housing education to obtain and renew a real estate license.
“[NAR] recognizes that fair housing training is essential for real estate licensees to provide an equivalent professional service to the public,” the committee said when presenting the proposed policy to the board.
“Yet there are major differences between states regarding fair housing education requirements for real estate licensing. Many states do not require fair housing training to obtain or renew a real estate license.
“Consistent with its commitment to consumer protection and professionalism in the industry, NAR believes that states should require all real estate licensees to regularly participate in fair housing training.”
According to NAR research, only half of states currently require a minimum number of fair housing training hours to obtain a real estate license, and only a third of states require such hours to renew a real estate license. The association does not advocate a specific minimum number of hours.
“States that require fair housing training for licensing range from 1 hour to 4 hours,” NAR spokesman Patrick Newton Inman said via email Thursday. “NAR’s state organizations can determine what number of hours will best serve licensees in their state. The key point is a minimum number of hours required, which will help ensure more substantive training on fair housing.”
Politicians said the trade group will also push for it “[d]defined educational requirements for fair housing for all licensees without exceptions” as well as permit provisions and regular audits of courses and trainers that would ensure the quality of both. With the stipulation that fair housing training should be “defined,” Newton says, the trade group hopes that it will specifically address the issue.
“Currently, many states include fair housing education in a general real estate law course,” he said. “When we advocate a ‘defined’ requirement in this case, we mean that there should be a specific time commitment to fair housing; Without such a defined requirement, there is no guarantee that fair housing will be addressed at any depth. A defined requirement provides greater assurance that the training is substantive. We trust that these matters will continue to be negotiated by States.”
Also in the new policy, NAR said state associations should support allowing commercial real estate licensees to meet educational requirements with non-discriminatory training.
“Many commercial real estate licensees emphasize that they do not engage in the sale or rental of homes, but believe there should be training requirements that ensure non-discrimination in commercial transactions,” Newton said. “State associations can find the most practical way to ensure the strictest laws and regulations in this regard.”
The full text of the policy can be found here. After the policy was passed, Newton said that since NAR does not advocate for state policy, it is up to state associations to work to strengthen their state’s laws.
“NAR has released this policy advisory to its state associations and will continue to assist in the analysis of laws that compare state practices when implementing legislative solutions,” Newton said.
No NAR training required for fair housing
NAR itself does not currently require Fair Housing training and that has not changed at this conference, although it could have been. In March, the trade group’s Fair Housing Policy Committee sent a recommendation that NAR should require regular Fair Housing training as a condition of NAR membership to the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction Committee, which oversees NAR membership requirements.
Finally, while considering this recommendation at the mid-year conference, the membership committee decided to appoint a working group “for further consideration”.
NAR currently only requires its members to attend a 2.5 hour Realtor Code of Conduct training course every three years. NAR introduced its new Implied Bias Certificate course at the conference, in addition to its 2020 Fairhaven Fair Housing training course. Both are voluntary, and only about 34,000 of NAR’s 1.5 million members have graduated from Fairhaven.
Reforms on “property of the heirs”.
“Inheritor property” refers to property passed from generation to generation without a will or other legal document proving ownership and is a leading cause of land loss for African Americans. At its board meeting, NAR passed policy to urge its state associations to support reforms to state real estate inheritance laws to provide proper litigation protections for owners of heirs’ property. The trade group specifically highlighted the Unified Division of Estates of Heirs Act (UPHPA) in support.
“[NAR] recognizes that property owners who inherit properties as joint tenants are vulnerable to foreclosures and evictions,” the State and Local Issues Policy Committee said. “Under standard common law, joint tenants may be faced with a court ordered split sale by public auction if an individual joint tenant so requests.”
According to the committee, a bipartisan group of experts appointed by state governments to the Unified Law Commission developed the UPHPA, which provides due process protections such as notice, appraisal, right of first refusal, and a court-supervised “commercially reasonable sale by a real estate agent” if others Roommates do not exercise their right and a sale is required. These safeguards “ensure all parties receive their fair share of the proceeds,” the committee added.
As with fair housing education policies, Newton says it will be up to state associations to push for heir property reforms under their state’s laws.
“NAR has published this Policy Advisory to its state associations and has already worked with several state associations by connecting them to information about UPHPA,” he said.
“NAR’s formal policy serves our interest in protecting property rights and ensuring due process protection to protect property owners from generation to generation.”
enforcement of fair lending
NAR’s Board of Directors also endorsed a recommendation by the Fair Housing Policy Committee that the trade group “supports the strong and fair enforcement of the fair lending provisions of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.”
“A clear statement in favor of fair lending will take a stand [NAR] to work with Congress and federal agencies as they seek to implement new policies and enforce existing laws aimed at eliminating discrimination in mortgage lending,” the committee told NAR’s board of directors.
“This policy statement serves as a guide for NAR to advocate for fair federal lending policies that promote the broker code of ethics consumer protections from unlawful discrimination. These safeguards support housing opportunities, economic growth, community development and a healthy and vibrant real estate market.”
While the NAR has generally advocated equal opportunities in real estate financing for decades, ”
The policy emphasizes better enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, particularly when it comes to fair lending.
“We believe the text of these laws is as strong as it is written,” Newton said. “In general, we have supported stronger enforcement of the Fair Housing Act; this also underscores the fair lending provisions of the Act and ECOA.”
When asked if NAR would push for specific policy changes related to this enforcement, Newton said NAR supports strong enforcement of the Fair Housing Act at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “including more funding for HUD and the private organizations for fair housing who help with such enforcement.”
He also noted that NAR has sponsored a bill called the Fair Lending for All Act by Texas Rep. Al Green that calls for strengthening ECOA enforcement at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“We also considered FHFA’s equity plans, which include fair enforcement of lending,” Newton said. “We will continue to engage in this and other ways.”
Special purpose loan programs
At the Fair Housing Policy Committee meeting at the conference, Allen Okamoto, a NAR director and agent owner of a San Francisco-based brokerage firm, presented a policy that was adopted by the California Association of Realtors at their spring 2022 business meetings. The policy called for both NAR and CAR to “support special lending programs by private entities that provide homeownership opportunities to communities that have experienced discrimination in the past.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, SPCPs are credit assistance programs that benefit an economically disadvantaged group of people.
The committee referred the policy “for further consideration” to a working group composed of members of the Fair Housing Policy Committee, the Conventional Financing & Policy Committee, and the Federal Financing & Housing Policy Committee.
Email Andrea V. Braambila.
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