Political Correctness vs Fair Housing. The PC People are Taking it Too Far.

I once posted a rental ad on Craigslist, stating the apartment was “close to downtown” and had the ad blacklisted because of the implied anti-poverty bias.  Horse puckey…  so absurdly annoying.

Read the following and tell me your thoughts!


You can’t say that … in a real estate ad!

BY: Gabriella Morrongiello January 15, 2014 | 4:00 am | Modified: January 15, 2014 at 4:51 am

Looking to sell your family-friendly, two-bedroom condominium within walking distance of the local grocery store? Don’t expect your real estate agent to advertise it as such.

The push to eradicate words and phrases from commercial vernacular that might be considered remotely insensitive has appeared once more with the folly of political correctness now spreading to real estate advertising.

The regulatory impact on marketing in real estate became apparent last April when a Washington Business Journal survey revealed that major homebuilders in the Washington, D.C. area had ditched the term “master bedroom” due to its racist connotation and replaced it with the more neutral “owner’s suite.”

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act banned the use of discriminatory phrases like “whites only” or “Jewish community” and was amended in 1988 to include families and handicapped individuals on its list of protected classes.

The 1988 amendments also enabled individuals who found an ad offensive to take legal action by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The obvious cases of race and class discrimination that the FHA once targeted for elimination have now been replaced by a level of censorship that borders on the absurd.

“You can say ‘family room,’ but not ‘family home.’ We avoid anything gender-specific like ‘his-and-her’s closets or baths,” said Beth Brody, a licensed Realtor in Marin County, Calif.

According to Brody, her agency has “mandatory risk management three or four times a year” during which appropriate advertising is occasionally addressed. Furthermore, her agency now has its own advertising department that monitors the language of its Realtors’ listings.

“When I decide to place an ad, if there’s something offensive, he’ll give it back to me and say ‘you’re not allowed to use that,’ ” Brody said.

Brody said the list of potentially offensive buzzwords has expanded over the years and partially attributes this to the FHA’s addition of disabled persons as a protected class and “the many changes in what defines a family.”

Although a memorandum issued by HUD in 1995 listed phrases like ‘bachelor pad’ and ‘mother-in-law unit’ as non-violations of the FHA, political correctness and hypersensitivity now indicate otherwise.

This past August, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling and awarded the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center a new trial in a federal discrimination lawsuit over an Ohio apartment listing for a “bachelor pad.”

According to the most recent Annual Report on Fair Housing for Fiscal Year 2011, “HUD charged the highest number of cases (55) in a single year since FY 2002, despite a 25 percent reduction in its fair housing staff during the previous two years.”

“We have become an extremely litigious society. People will find anything to create a suit and there are attorneys out there who are more than happy to accommodate them,” said Randy Haak, an agent with the national real estate agency Better Homes and Gardens.

Lesley Walker, associate counsel at the National Association of Realtors, believes that since “our culture and society are now more in tune with the sensitivities of more groups of people,” the room for interpretation has certainly increased.

“I think we’re more aware and educated and so [we are] taking more precautions not to inadvertently or expressly discriminate against a specific class of people,” said Walker.

Although HUD has never issued an official list of terms to avoid, the Northwest Multiple Listings Service — an online portal of property listings available to real estate agents — issued a list of “potentially offensive words” developed by its attorneys that provide further examples of the aforementioned “precautions.”

Some of the words and descriptions that “should never be used in a listing” include, but are not limited to: newlyweds, country club nearby, handyman’s dream, safe neighborhood, secure, and walking distance to.

“We have an agent in town who will get up at MLS meetings and challenge someone who has listed something as being “close to the plaza,” because one person’s idea of close is not the same as another’s,” said Haak, adding that “agents have now been trained to say, ‘three blocks to the plaza,’ since ‘walking distance’ could be prejudicial against someone in a wheelchair.”

Additionally, some real estate agents are now advising their clients to remove the American flag when photographing a listing.

“For my company, that’s a precautionary action. We want to neutralize the house to appeal to the greatest pool of buyers, so we want to keep the focus on the house and not be distracted by anything political and an American flag could be political,” said Brody.

Should we really be removing the stars and stripes when homeownership has always been central to the American dream?

Gabriella Morrongiello is a former Washington Examiner intern.

Evaluating Your Water Usage: The First Step for Conservation

Did you know that Americans use large quantities of water inside their home?

The average family of four can use 400 gallons of water every day, and, on average, approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors, according to the EPA. For a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, that’s a lot of water! Additionally, most of that indoor use comes from the bathroom.

Much of that water usage is usually attributed to waste, such as leaky toilets, or misuse (leaving the faucet on).


But a hidden enemy of water conservation is simply older toilets and showers. For example, old showers can use as much as 5 gallons of water per minute, whereas newer models can be as little as 1 gallon per minute.

Water conservation is good for the environment, and of course is good for the wallet for those who have to pay a water bill. Now is as good a time as ever to learn about a shower remodeling from Bath Fitter.

Some additional facts from the EPA below:

  • Older toilets use between 3.5 and 7 gallons of water per flush. However, WaterSense labeled toilets require 75 to 80 percent less water
  • A leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water every day
  • A bathroom faucet generally runs at 2 gallons of water per minute. By turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving, a person can save more than 200 gallons of water per month


Maine Apartment Association – Member Appreciation Night, December 10


Click on the flyer for more information…

December 10 at 5pm.

25 Long Wharf, Portland ME

Local Talent: The “Golden” Baritone – Larry Gowell

Larry Gowell Profile

One of my favorite Christmas carols is Silent Night.  It’s a song that to me has always sounded best when sung by a deep rich voice, and local Auburn resident – and former Yankees pitcher – Larry Gowell has the baritone to do it justice.  Click the link below to hear this haunting Christmas staple wonderfully performed by Larry Gowell.


We like to give local talent a chance to show off their stuff at our conferences, and were thrilled to have baritone Larry Gowell as the lead entertainment at the Greater Androscoggin Landlords & Real Estate Investors Conference in May.

Larry, an Edward Little High School graduate (Auburn ME) and former pitcher for the New York Yankees has been in great demand lately – and for good reason.  He is blessed with what’s been called a “golden” baritone voice.

We could talk on and on about Larry (who is also an amazingly nice person), but figure that instead, we’ll let others tell his story.

First, in his own words from his Facebook page:

“Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get.”

“Music is what sustains me and makes life rich and sweet no matter what downfalls I face.”

“I was born and raised in Auburn, Maine. I graduated from Edward Little High school in 1967 and was drafted by the New York Yankees as a fourth round draft pick as a pitcher. I went on to make the major leagues club in 1972. In 1975 I was released from baseball and got hired as an insurance agent that year.”

“I have two adopted children, Crystal and Maurice and my son Chad Holland who lives in Burlington, North Carolina. He is the head coach of Graham High School.”

“I have a very outgoing personality and get along very well with most folks.”

“My goal is to become much more active in sports and music as I go into my retirement years.”

By googling “Larry Gowell pitcher”.

You’ll get quite a few hits when you google Larry, including this one from Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Gowell

Larry was interviewed by Bill Green on Bill Green’s Maine this past May. 

You can watch the interview by clicking on the link below.


If you’re looking for quality local talent for an upcoming event, you should absolutely consider engaging Larry.   He doesn’t know I’m posting this blog about him (although he will shortly!), so I don’t feel comfortable giving out his email address or phone number, but if you want to contact me, I’ll make sure he gets the message.

The Aesthetics of Doorknobs vs the Usability of Levers

As someone who deals with episodic fibromyalgia, Reynaud’s disease and the beginnings of arthritis in my hands (and a family history of relatives coping with the painful disease), I’m often frustrated by gripping and grasping motions that I can’t manage readily. 

Pumping gas can be excruciating, particularly in the winter when my Reynaud’s flares up (I love-love-love the pumps with the little notches that allow the gas to flow without me actually holding the nozzle).  Even turning on the shower faucet can be a serious chore some mornings.

Doorknobs in particular are notoriously difficult to handle when one’s grip is impaired, which can happen as a result of the ailments mentioned above, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, medication side effects, neurological damage, and in fact any illness that saps one’s strength… or even just as a result of aging.

Given my personal experiences as well as my work in the field of housing & disabilities, you’d think I’d be thrilled with the idea of getting rid of doorknobs in favor of levers, which require little in terms of strength, and can even be manipulated using one’s elbow instead of a hand.

But when I first read that the City of Vancouver had banned doorknobs, I flinched.  There’s an aesthetic about doorknobs that levers just can’t match.  They come in materials and colors of amazing variety – one of my previous houses had lovely antique glass doorknobs throughout – and are often backed by plates of intricate design.  Levers, while affording critical accessibility and independence for people who might otherwise be limited in life’s daily activities, just aren’t that pretty.

Read on for more on the topic.  Both the link to one of many articles on Vancouver’s Universal Design mandate and the text of the write-up are below.


In a move to make housing more universally accessible, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has banned doorknobs in private homes and apartment buildings. Starting in March 2014, the doors of new buildings will be equipped instead with more ergonomically friendly, easier-to-use lever handles, the Vancouver Sun reports. It notes that while the bylaw passed in September is not retroactive, City Hall has set an example by replacing its art deco brass doorknobs, which date from 1936.

As University of British Columbia professor Tim Stainton explained in the article, the doorknob ban is in the spirit of a concept known as universal design, which holds that environments should be built to be usable by a majority of people regardless of age or capacity, rather than adapted to meet the needs of the elderly or disabled.

Design that makes everyday things easy to use even for those with physical challenges is the same principle that IDEO designers used when redesigning an OXO Good Grips potato peeler to be easier to use for arthritics. The designers noted that the human-centered design exercise “solved a specific problem for a specific group: Namely, helping people with reduced grip strength to peel things easier. Turned out, it offered a benefit to everyone.”

An article in Popular Science pointed out that turning doorknobs can be challenging for arthritic hands, citing a troubling statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 67 million adult Americans will have arthritis by 2030. With boomers living longer than ever it seems like the U.S. might want to follow Vancouver’s lead by adding private residences to the accessibility requirements that were established for public spaces with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

From MaineListings.Com – Maine Real Estate Sales Up 5.86 Percent in October





SOUTH PORTLAND (Nov. 20, 2013) — Maine’s existing home sales and prices continue to move in a positive direction, even during fall’s cooler temperatures.

According to Maine Listings, Realtors across Maine’s 16 counties sold 1,246 homes in October—an increase of 5.86
percent from one year ago. The median sales price (MSP) rose 3.37 percent to $176,250.

The MSP indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less.  Nationwide, sales were up 5.2 percent last month, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national MSP reached $199,500, an increase of 12.7 percent. The regional Northeast experienced a sales uptick of 11.7 percent and the regional MSP jumped 7.4 percent to $247,300.

“Inventory continues to climb, and prices are appreciating; many sellers are now more comfortable entering the market,” said Bart Stevens, President of the Maine Association of Realtors. “A majority of the distressed properties have left the market, and things appear to be moving back toward a more normal real estate environment.”

Stevens, owner/broker with Century 21 Nason Realty in Winslow, said lenders have capital available for borrowers, and those with steady jobs and good credit scores should take advantage of “historically low interest rates and favorable affordability. Now continues to be a good time to purchase real estate for personal use or investment purposes. For many, owning is more affordable than renting due to the tax benefits over time and the accumulation of

For rest of article and accompanying charts, please click on link at the top of this column.

New Laws – Announcement from the Maine Dept of Labor

News Release

Maine Department of Labor Issues Reminder about Laws that Go into Effect Oct. 9

For Immediate Release: October 9, 2013

Contact:   Julie Rabinowitz, 621-5009

Businesses must report new hires and respond promptly to requests for information about former employees filing for unemployment

AUGUSTA—Most bills passed by the Maine legislature in the spring of 2013 become law effective Oct. 9, 2013. Of note are two laws that relate to the reporting of information about a worker’s employment status to the state.

“Maine businesses should be aware of several new laws that affect them,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services have been proactive by providing online reporting services that make complying with these changes easier and much less costly than using the mail.”

The first, “An Act To Amend the Requirements for the Reporting of New Hires” (LD 929  PL 2013, Ch. 279), requires an employer to notify the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) when they hire or rehire an employee.

Although there has been a reporting requirement in place since 1995, this new law clarifies the definition of “new hire” and specifies when employers report.  Employers should report newly hired or rehired employees or employees returning to work after a layoff to the state within seven days of the date of hire – at the point when the new employee first performs services for pay. This includes any individual who receives a W-2 form and any independent contractor when reimbursement for such services is anticipated to equal or exceed $2,500 in a year.

Maine recently launched an online reporting system that feeds this required information to the National Database of New Hires. Employers should visit the New Hire Report website at https://portal.maine.gov/newhire . For questions about the new hire reporting requirements or using the website, businesses should email Maine.Newhire@maine.gov or call (207) 624-4100.

For employers, reporting new hires and rehires can be a benefit because it helps lower their experience rating by preventing unemployment fraud and improper unemployment benefit payments. The Department of Labor uses the new hire information to ensure that people filing for unemployment are not employed in Maine or in other states. DHHS uses this data to capture child support through wage garnishment from non-custodial parents who are earning wages.

The second law going into effect, “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Unemployment Compensation To Ensure Conformity with the Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011” (LD 1311 PL 2013, Ch. 314), amends the laws governing unemployment compensation concerning penalties. Fifteen percent of an unemployment misrepresentation or fraud penalty must be placed directly into the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.

This law also prohibits an employer from being relieved of benefit charges for a benefit overpayment that was due to the fault of the employer.

Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette explained, “This applies to employers who have a pattern of not responding promptly to the department’s requests for information pertaining to an unemployment benefit claim. These include, for example, questions about how much a former employee made in wages or the reason the employee left the job. The answers to these questions determine whether a person is eligible for benefits, and if so, how much. Without answers, we often have little more to go on than the employee’s statement.”

Paquette continued, “When an employer later demonstrates why the former worker is not entitled to unemployment insurance, the department has to undertake significant work to adjust the claim, including requiring the claimant to pay back any benefits received.”

“The new law, by charging businesses as if the claim was valid, provides an incentive for businesses to ensure that they promptly respond to departmental requests. This saves both time and money for the department and reduces unemployment fraud.”

The department has also launched an online service to assist businesses in answering these requests. “SIDES E-Response is ideal for employers that have a limited number of unemployment claims. It reduces staff time, paper work and postal expenses plus the delays related to paper mail delivery in processing unemployment information,” she explained.

Employers interesting in enrolling or learning more should visit https://gateway.maine.gov/SIDES/sides . Businesses with questions about the unemployment system should contact Employer Services at (207) 621-5120 or division.uctax@Maine.gov .

A list of the recent changes that fall under whole or partial jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Labor is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/index.html .


This email was sent to LSnyder@regroupbiz.com using GovDelivery, on behalf of: Maine Department of Labor · 54 State House Station · Augusta, Maine 04333 · (207) 623-7900 · TTY (for Deaf and hard of hearing): 1-800-794-1110 Powered by GovDelivery

Landlords to Hold Lewiston Candidates Forum


The Lewiston/Auburn Landlord Association is holding a candidate forum for Lewiston City Council and Mayoral hopefuls on October 29, 2013.

The location is the C&J Hall, 711 Webster St. Lewiston and will begin at 7 pm.

Candidates will be given an opportunity to briefly address the landlords concerning the candidate’s philosophy on issues of concern to landlords in Lewiston.

The candidates will then be asked a series of questions related to landlord matters. Landlords in the audience will be given a brief opportunity to ask questions of the candidates.

The forum will end at approximately 8:30 pm. All landlords are welcome to attend whether members of the association or not.

Confirmed speakers thus far include both mayoral candidates (Robert Macdonald, the sitting mayor, and Laurent Gilbert, a previous Mayor of Lewiston) as well as several council candidates.

Thomas P. Peters, II Esq.
937 Main Street
Lewiston, Maine 04240


Greater Bangor Real Estate Conference Schedule

Here’s a copy of the most recent version of our Greater Bangor Real Estate Conference Schedule.  You can view it on here (below), or click on the link to get a PDF version you can download to your computer.

Bangor Landlords – Schedule of Events and Ticket Order Form – Oct 201

3Greater Bangor Real Estate Conference Cover Bangor Real Estate Conference Friday Workshops

Bangor Housing Conference Thursday Workshops Bangor Real Estate Conference Order Form

For a reason unknown to me, some of these links don’t work as links, meaning you’ll have to copy and paste to follow them. I’ll keep trying to get them to work correctly.

For info on sponsorships, exhibiting or advertising, call Linda at 207 740 2247 or email LSnyder@regroupbiz.com

To present a seminar, workshop or activity, call John at 207 713 0674 or email JSnyder@regroupbiz.com

For your social media marketing and information in the Conference Program, email Jessamyn at JHopkins@regroupbiz.com

Other Sources of Information: 

To Register to Attend:  http://bangorhousingshowattendees.eventbrite.com

To Sponsor or Exhibit:  http://bangorhousingshowexhibitors.eventbrite.com

To Place an Ad in the Conference Program:  http://bangorhousingshowprogram.eventbrite.com

To Follow Our Blog: https://realestatehousingandlanduse.wordpress.com

To Join Our Group on LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/groups/maine-real-estate-investors-group

To Join our Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AndroRealEstateLandlordExpo/  (For all of our real estate conferences, not just Androscoggin.)

To Follow Our Fan Page on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mainerealestateinvestorsgroup

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To Follow What a Great Event! on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/whatagreatevent

To Find Linda on LInkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/lindamsnyder

To Find John on LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/johnksnyder

To Visit Our Websitehttp://www.regroupbiz.com

Blogs and Others, Not Related to Real Estate:

Animals & Pets

To Follow Our Maine Dog Bloghttp://themainedogblog.wordpress.com

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To Follow The Maine Pet Expos on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/themainepetexpos

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To Follow ReGroup! Business Solutions on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/regroupbusinesssolutions

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To Follow Our Soul-Mate Marriages Blog: http://soulmatemarriage.wordpress.com

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