Where can I find information on fair housing laws in Virginia?

The Virginia Fair Housing Office website has great education information for the public and practitioners. CLICK HERE to visit the Fair Housing Office site.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to five college students without worrying about discrimination?

Ordinarily, yes. College students are not a protected class. However, be careful that the refusal to rent does not disproportionately affect a protected class. An example would be an ad refusing to rent to college students in an area adjacent to a historically black College and University. The landlord’s intent may not be to exclude African Americans, but his action could have a disproportionate effect on a protected class.

Everything else being innocent, it’s not a problem to refuse to rent to college students.

Please note that some localities have enhanced protections for minors so you should check with your locality before running this type of ad.

My seller is a convicted sex offender and is listed on the sex offender registry website. After we sell his current home we will begin the search for a replacement home. Am I, as the buyer agent, required to inform anyone of the fact that my buyer is on the list? Can I decline to represent him as a buyer?

No law requires such disclosure. In fact, you should not disclose this to anyone without his consent, as to do so may jeopardize his ability to purchase a home, which is, after all, why he hired you. Suffice it to say that if you decide to take a job, you should do it professionally and competently, preserving your client’s confidences. If for any reason you cannot do this, you should decline the representation.

Declining representation in this case is not necessarily a fair housing violation as sex offenders are not a protected class. However, be aware that if you terminate representation after a listing agreement has been signed, you may be liable for damages under the contract. Always read your contract language closely, and vet your clients fully before agreeing to representation.