Can I say "quiet" to describe a neighborhood?

29 Replies

Just started putting together my ad, and realized that calling the neighborhood "quiet" might be implying something I'm not allowed to say. Opinions?

Technically, calling a neighborhood "quiet" is a fair-housing violation. I've been called out on that a few times doing BPOs. Some vendors are more sensitive to these little nuances than others. I've stopped using it in general.

I used to describe a property's immediate area as a "quiet, tree-lined street." Now I just say tree-lined. It either has trees or it doesn't. It's in the photos.

But, calling an area quiet, even if it is quiet when I'm doing my photos, implies something that can be misconstrued.

I put that on my ad when I posted my units. Not sure if it is incorrect but it worked for me.

People used to claim things like "walk-in closet" or "walking distance to bus stop" were Fair Housing violations because some people can't walk. Fortunately, HUD has clarified and said these are not violations.

Likewise, "quiet" is an adjective that should not violate Fair Housing. The bigger question is, how do you define "quiet" and prove that to an applicant?

@Nathan G. In case you were uncertain about how weird Massachusetts law can be, our licensing classes and CE courses specifically state that using the term "walking distance" or "a short walk" discriminates against people without legs.

You CAN say 1/10th mile to the beach as that's an objective fact.  But if you assume that someone can walk 528 feet, it's a Fair Housing violation.

Seriously.  Check the date - it's not April fools.  They really say this!

I wonder if they'll call me out for stating a distance "as the crow flies".  That discriminates against people without wings.  Or without crows.  Or something.

@Charlie MacPherson a lot of people teach those "trigger" words and phrases but I haven't seen anything in writing from HUD that bans them. Educators are wrong all the time.

Everything I've read from HUD directly says it is OK to use "great view" or "Master bedroom" or "walking distance to..." in your marketing. If you can find something in writing from HUD, I'll be happy to change my stance.

@Charlie MacPherson

Exactly how I mentioned it.

Wrote on a BPO report "property located on a quiet, tree-lined street." the vendor took out "quiet" and sent me a message about not using quiet anymore. He explained that their bank client doesn't want it due to fair housing.

I'm assuming it's part of fair housing where you can't call out a neighborhood as being "nice" or "bad" or "crappy" or "full of crime." I got an email from another vendor that some agents have been using these terms and other flavorful ones lately and we shouldn't.

In fair housing, this issue comes up under steering and blockbusting. If someone says they want to live in a particular area, I can't suggest they shouldn't because of crime. Nor can I describe an area if someone specifically asks. I can only point them to tools they can use online to check for school ratings and crime stats and decide themselves.

Massachusetts is by far the craziest fair housing state that there is (I think, Im open to hearing crazier places). Simply asking someone in casual conversation "so where are you from?" ..lead to an agent being fined about $100k and was upheld by the courts when he challenged it. Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission 

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Massachusetts is by far the craziest fair housing state that there is (I think, Im open to hearing crazier places). Simply asking someone in casual conversation "so where are you from?" ..lead to an agent being fined about $100k and was upheld by the courts when he challenged it. Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission 

Ouch! Not being able to casually talk or use words like quiet is pushing it. 

I must be missing something but how is this discrimination (especially the quiet part)?

@Omar Khan From the way @Christopher Phillips described it, I think the objection regarding "quiet" is a lender's legal department being overly - and I think unreasonably - cautious.

As to describing neighborhoods, I might say "look at the condition of the surrounding homes".  Or look at the crime heat maps on Trulia.  I'm in the clear because I'm talking about objective facts, not people.  And that's the takeaway from our Fair Housing training here in MA - you can NEVER discuss people.

I had two different black female clients ask me straight up, "are there any black people living around here?"  I just replied that I'm not allowed to answer those sorts of questions as I could lose my license in the blink of an eye.

I wondered whether it was a sting, because Massachusetts sends out "testers" to do exactly that.  

The seafood and fall colors around here are pretty spectacular - but it's a crazy state.

@Charlie MacPherson

I worry about these client questions. I do get the "is this a nice area?" Or "you know, somewhere safe" type comments.

I'm also concerned about steering in general. Down here on Long Island the prices vary a lot and so do the property taxes. Especially when people are coming out of Queens and looking at Nassau and Suffolk counties. In Queens, property taxes might be around $4,000. In Nassau, they can easily be $15,000 to $30,000 depending on the town. In some cases, they vary that much in the same town.

This creates a situation where I have to explain to people the difficulty of buying in certain areas. This becomes a big issue when buyers just starting out don't understand the tax situation and shop online based on price. They'll often ask about a shortsale listed at super low prices (often below land value) and then I have to be careful about telling them if it's really available or not. Especially when the listings says Active and the listing agent says it's under contract.

I've said quiet except for school drop-off and pick-up times before.  Don't think it helped. LOL

Back when I had to put my rentals in the paper, they set me straight on not saying walking distance.  I now say close or super close or next to...

Not being able to say walk-in closet is ridiculous.  It's a noun anymore.  Like not being able to say the house is a split-level or a bungalow or craftsman.

By not being able to say a neighborhood is quiet or rough, it leaves the consumers (that the 'law' is meant to protect) more in the dark. What if you end it with 'in my opinion'?

Then again, I'm not surprised.  Agencies are afraid to state square footage these days. 'Buyer to verify' follows about every elementary fact in a listing.

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

Massachusetts is by far the craziest fair housing state that there is (I think, Im open to hearing crazier places). Simply asking someone in casual conversation "so where are you from?" ..lead to an agent being fined about $100k and was upheld by the courts when he challenged it. Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission 

 I looked up Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission...you have successfully convinced me never to buy property in MA. haha

Originally posted by @Andrew B. :
Originally posted by @Russell Brazil:

Massachusetts is by far the craziest fair housing state that there is (I think, Im open to hearing crazier places). Simply asking someone in casual conversation "so where are you from?" ..lead to an agent being fined about $100k and was upheld by the courts when he challenged it. Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission 

 I looked up Linder v. Boston Fair Housing Commission...you have successfully convinced me never to buy property in MA. haha

 The worst part was that the court ruled something along the lines of....discrimination need not of been intended nor to actually have happened in order for a fair housing violation to have occurred.  That just blows my mind. Discrimination didnt happen, wasnt intended...but we are still going to fine the hell out of you.

Ive made good money in Massachusetts.  I wouldnt write it off completely, you just have to go in with your eyes wide open.  The markets where you tend to make the most money, have a lot of regulatory crap to deal with.  DC, Boston, NYC, San Francisco etc.  

I tell PotentIal tenants it’s usually quiet unless of coarse a gun goes off In a drIve by or the police are arresting someone with their sirens on .i also tell them it’s just a short walk down down the lItter lIned street to our frIendly liquor store and there’s a charmIng little ma and pa corner store that sells cigarettes ,rolling papers, and lotto tickets - all the essentials.

Quiet is subjective. I like (not) the listings that say it has a huge lot. Which ends up being 4,000 SF when zoning wants 5,000 SF minimum, neither of which is huge. :eyesroll:

Originally posted by @Christopher Phillips :

Technically, calling a neighborhood "quiet" is a fair-housing violation. I've been called out on that a few times doing BPOs. Some vendors are more sensitive to these little nuances than others. I've stopped using it in general.

I used to describe a property's immediate area as a "quiet, tree-lined street." Now I just say tree-lined. It either has trees or it doesn't. It's in the photos.

But, calling an area quiet, even if it is quiet when I'm doing my photos, implies something that can be misconstrued.

Really? This seems crazy. Not saying I don't believe you, just that it's insane that "quiet street" is a fair housing violation. Are loud people a protected class now? Asking because my wife tells me to shut up all the time. Would it be nice to tell her she's being discriminatory if that's the case. In a seriousness is it because quiet street is a dog whistle?

@Dennis M. Saturday, I found a tenant allowing her 'boyfriend' to provide a drive up drug delivery service from her apartment . I'm non-renewing, perhaps I should send her your way? ;) He served a half dozen cars while I stood in the parking lot (while we were making improvements) and watched!!??

Originally posted by @Jill F. :

@Dennis M. Saturday, I found a tenant allowing her 'boyfriend' to provide a drive up drug delivery service from her apartment . I'm non-renewing, perhaps I should send her your way? ;) He served a half dozen cars while I stood in the parking lot (while we were making improvements) and watched!!??

I’ve noticed drug dealers always have a big wad of cash . Seems That is better than most of the other people in the hood . That means the lad has the wherewithal to pay his rent and he has a steady job with good sales experience !