Advertising for apartment homes sounds simple enough. But in today’s world, it requires some thought and planning. Religion, of course, is one of the protected classes under our Fair Housing Act (FHA). Apartment homes must be made available to all — regardless of a person’s religion or lack of religion. But, of course, there is more to the law than just that. And not all of the rules are easy to follow in the real world.
HUD guidance makes clear that advertisements should not contain an explicit preference or limitation based on religion. For example, you cannot write "No Jews Allowed" in an advertisement. It is also a better practice not to use a church as a landmark when giving directions to a property (such as "we are five blocks down from the catholic church") as that could be viewed as exhibiting a preference for a certain religion.
HUD also recommends that management not use religious symbols (such as a cross) in your advertisements as, standing alone, it could also be perceived as a religious preference. Management can, however, advertise that you provide certain services (such as "kosher meals available") In my practice, I advise that if a management company is going to use any type of religious symbol in its promotional materials, it is appropriate to also add a sentence such as the following: "This community does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, or familial status." And I would also include the equal housing opportunity logo. Those disclaimers can be useful evidence if someone takes the position that even what you believe is a benign religious symbol is showing an improper preference in the opinion of someone else.
On a related note, the use of secularized terms or symbols related to certain religious holidays — such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny — do not, standing alone, constitute a violation of the FHA. Similarly, pictures or phrases such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Easter" also have been found not to violate the FHA.
Just A Thought.