Real Estate Terms

Jones v. Mayer Supreme Court Case Explained

The Jones v. Mayer case of 1968 determined that Congress could regulate the sale of private property to prohibit racial discrimination.

This ruling shaped future fair housing laws, so it’s essential for real estate professionals to know. You’ll need to learn about Jones v. Mayer from trusted experts if you’re studying for the licensure exam. Luckily, we’re here to help you learn about this critical real estate term before the big test.

In this post, we’ll define the Jones v. Mayer Case, give examples of how it works, and highlight the acts that came before and after.

What Is the Jones v. Mayer Case of 1968?

Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. is an impactful case where the Supreme Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that banned discrimination against black citizens in the private sale and rental of property.

It all started when the Alfred H. Mayer Co. refused to sell a home to Joseph Lee Jones, an African American man. Mayer explained to Jones that when he sold homes to black citizens in white neighborhoods, it negatively affected his business.

Jones filed a lawsuit against Mayer with the United States District Court. He alleged that Mayer violated the Civil Rights Act by racially discriminating against him.

However, the District Court and the Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit. These courts claimed that the Civil Rights Act applied only to governmental discrimination. This meant private sellers could still discriminate against prospective homebuyers based on race.

However, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, or cert for short. This meant they would review the case themselves and make a final ruling.

The Supreme Court had to answer two important questions before making a verdict on Jones v. Mayer. The questions were:

  1. Does the Civil Rights Act protect black citizens against private discrimination?
  2. Does Congress have the constitutional power to ban private discrimination and enforce the Civil Rights Act?

What Was the Result of the Jones v. Mayer Case?

Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with Jones, ruling that the Civil Rights act did not allow companies like Mayer to discriminate. 

This decision set an important precedent for racial discrimination in housing, as Congress finally had the constitutional power to ban public and private discrimination in the sale and rental of property.   

What Impact Did Jones v. Mayer Have?

The Jones v. Mayer decision impacted more than just housing laws; this ruling had larger implications for society as a whole.

This case awakened the Thirteenth Amendment, starting important conversations about how private discrimination was as economically harmful as public discrimination.  

It also gave Congress the power to decide that any public or private acts of discrimination were “the badges and incidents of slavery.” This led to new legislation banning racial discrimination not just in real estate but in other markets as well.

The History Behind Jones v. Mayer

To understand how the Jones v Mayer case came to be, we must learn the history surrounding this case.

The Thirteenth Amendment, passed in 1865, paved the way for the Civil Rights Act. This amendment declared that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude could exist in the United States.

While the Thirteenth Amendment was a big step in the civil rights movement, the country still had a long way to go. Racial discrimination was rampant in the U.S., including in the housing market. Black citizens did not have access to the same rights as white citizens for buying or selling property.

What Is the Civil Rights Act of 1866?

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 stated that all people born in the United States are created equal and had full benefits of the laws, regardless of race, color, or previous enslavement. This is the act that the Supreme Court had to interpret when making its decision on Jones v. Mayer.

Under the Civil Rights Act, black citizens gained the right to:

  • Make and enforce contracts
  • Sue and be sued
  • Provide evidence in court
  • Inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property

Unfortunately, progress took a long time to rear its head. The brunt of the fight for civil rights occurred in the 1950s and 60s. It wasn’t until 1968, when the Supreme Court made a decision for the Jones v. Mayer case, that significant changes started happening.  

Did the Jones v. Mayer Case End Housing Discrimination?

While the Jones v. Mayer case helped fight racial discrimination, it failed to eradicate it entirely.

Studies show that African American renters still receive fewer home options than white renters. This indicates that real estate agents favor white tenants over black tenants. 

Further studies show that when African American renters apply for housing opportunities, they receive fewer responses back than white renters.

These housing discrimination tactics are much less apparent than Mayer Co. blatantly rejecting Jones because of race. However, this only makes these discriminatory behaviors harder to detect and punish.

Let’s look at a concrete example of racial discrimination from recent times.

Indiana Neighbor Pays $225K for Racial Discrimination

In 2022, a tenant named Donna Banks faced discrimination while living in her rental home. Her neighbor, Vicki New, repeatedly called Banks racial slurs and made other racial comments.

According to reports, the executive director of the region’s fair housing center said the area had “endured relentless harassment based on race or national origin for far too long.”

This case proves that housing discrimination against protected classes is still a problem. Even when landlords follow the law, racist neighbors may steer black families away from white communities.

Effects of Housing Discrimination

Housing discrimination has many negative effects on the housing market, including:

  • Racially segregated neighborhoods
  • Lower homeownership rates
  • Increased homelessness
  • Reduced home values 

Examples of Housing Discrimination Against Racial Minorities

Examples of racial discrimination that are outlawed due to Jones v. Mayer include:

  • Denying housing to tenants because they are African American
  • Charging higher fees for racial minorities
  • Harassing minority tenants
  • Steering black homebuyers away from white neighborhoods
  • Telling black homebuyers a home has been sold when it is not

Examples of Housing Discrimination Against Other Protected Classes

While the Jones v. Mayer ruling affected racial minorities, it eventually led to the protection of other groups. As a result, the following practices are examples of housing discrimination:

  • Denying housing to a same-sex couple
  • Steering Jewish homebuyers away from Catholic communities
  • Charging tenants with children extra fees
  • Refusing to repair a tenant’s unit because they are transgender
  • Renting out apartments that are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs 

How to Fight Housing Discrimination in Real Estate  

Real estate professionals have a responsibility to fight racial discrimination in housing. We can help promote equal opportunities for protected classes by:

  • Getting familiar with state and federal fair housing laws
  • Using inclusive language on property listings
  • Not working with brokers who violate fair housing laws
  • Treating all home seekers equally

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 defends protected classes from housing discrimination. This act, also called Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, would not be possible without the Jones v. Mayer case ruling.

Who Are the Protected Classes in Real Estate?

The FHA states that housing providers cannot discriminate against the following protected classes:

  1. Race
  2. Color
  3. National origin
  4. Religion
  5. Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)
  6. Familial status
  7. Disabilities

Are There Exceptions to Title VIII?

The Fair Housing Act has certain exemptions where housing providers can discriminate. But due to the precedent set by Jones v. Mayer, no exemptions permit racial discrimination.  

The three exceptions to the Fair Housing Act are:

  1. Mrs. Murphy Exemption
  2. Single-Family Home Exemption
  3. Affinity housing 

Who Enforces the Fair Housing Act?

The Supreme Court ruled in Jones v. Mayer that the government can enforce fair housing laws to ban private discrimination. The federal agency responsible for penalizing violators is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

If someone faces discrimination, they can ask HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (HFEO) to investigate the claim. If HFEO finds evidence of discrimination, the discriminating party will be penalized.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Fair Housing Laws?

Housing providers who violate Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act face serious consequences. Penalties include paying the following fines:

  • $16,000 fine for one violation
  • $37,500 for two violations in five years
  • $65,000 for three violations in seven years

The penalties become more serious when force or the threat of force is used to discriminate. In these cases, violators may even face time in prison.

What to Know Before the Real Estate Exam

The Jones v. Mayer Supreme Court ruling upheld the Civil Rights Act and prohibited discrimination against race. While racial discrimination is still a problem in housing, this ruling helped to strengthen fair housing laws.
This case will be a crucial part of the real estate exam, so make sure you know your stuff before the big day. You can study even more important real estate terms with our online Real Estate Flashcards. Good luck!

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