Back in June, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that the Civil Rights Act applies to sexual orientation. Moving forward, Americans don’t have to worry about losing their jobs for being who they are. However, the ruling didn’t address other areas of prejudice — including the discrimination LGBTQ homebuyers face in the mortgage industry.
“There are more than 35 states where it is perfectly legal for a bank or credit union officer to say, ‘We do not loan money to your kind,’” says Justin Nelson, Co-Founder and President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. According to a study based on two decades of mortgage data from Iowa State Univerity’s Ivy College of Business, same-sex couples are 73% more likely to be denied a mortgage. And those who are approved are charged noticeably higher fees.
Even though there are no federal protections for LGBTQ homebuyers, there are steps you can take to fight back and continue to expose unfair lending practices.
Make sure you can spot discrimination when it happens
It’s legal in many states for lenders to discriminate against LGBTQ borrowers, but not all discrimination looks the same. This is why it’s essential to identify the signs when it happens. Being able to spot these unfair practices is the first step in stopping them.
Here are some common mortgage discrimination scenarios:
- A lender denying you for a mortgage without explanation.
- Receiving different terms online or over the phone than you do in person.
- Being required to add a cosigner even though you meet requirements without one.
- A lender asking you about your plans for a family.
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Remember: you have the right to know why you are denied for a mortgage. Lenders are required to provide specific reasons why you were denied if you ask for them. You also have the power to negotiate the unfair or inflated fees you may receive.
Don’t brush discrimination off when it happens
As with anything, ignoring a problem doesn’t contribute to a solution. If you suspect your lender may have violated state or local laws, start by filing a complaint with the lender. You can consult your area’s Fair Housing Authority or attorney general’s office if you aren’t familiar with the protections in your area.
To date, only 22 states have laws against mortgage discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Regardless if you live in a state with protections or not, you can request legal assistance from your local American Civil Liberties Union to take action.
Whether through filing complaints or exploring legal avenues, it’s important to continue to highlight how often and to what extent mortgage discrimination is happening.
Find an ally in the mortgage industry
There are many steps in buying a home, which unfortunately means there are many opportunities for bad experiences. “One of the best ways to avoid discrimination while getting a mortgage is to work with an experienced agent who will be your advocate,” says Andrew Weinberger, CEO of PropertyClub. “Mortgage bankers work mostly on commission, so a top-producing agent will have quite a bit of leverage with their preferred lenders.”
[ Read: Finding the Best Mortgage Lenders ]
Working with an LGBTQ-friendly real estate agent and the lender from the beginning can make sure you get your dream home with the best mortgage terms. If you don’t know where to start, the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals keeps a list of updated LGBTQ-friendly realtors.
Finding an ally doesn’t have to stop at your agent or lender; it can also extend to the tools you use. Zillow has recently added LGBTQ non-discrimination law information on all the applicable homes listed on the site. This tool gives you real-time access to LGBTQ local legal protections while shopping around for homes.
Too long, didn’t read?
The patchwork of state and local regulations is not enough to protect the LGBTQ community from mortgage denial or padded fees. Federal protections are needed. “The protections of the Equality Act would bring us much closer to the inclusion we need for the American Dream to be accessible to every LGBT American,” says Nelson. The Equality Act would fill in the gaps current legislation leaves in areas like housing, healthcare and adoption, though Senate action is still needed for the act to become law.
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Justin Nelson is the Co-Founder and President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the business voice of the LGBT community and the largest LGBT economic advocacy and business development organization in the world.
Prior to founding PropertyClub, Andrew Weinberger was a top-producing sales agent, a listing manager on a team that did over $200 million in sales, and a leasing director overseeing a 30+ agent team.
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