COACH's Pop Quiz!
Q: Your property is located in San Antonio where local ordinance bans military status discrimination. A naval officer has been assigned to a new base and needs a one-bedroom apartment right away. The only one-bedroom apartment that’s currently available is right next door to the unit occupied by a radical peace activist with an erratic personality and history of getting into aggressive confrontations with anybody he believes supports or represents the military. You fear that leasing the officer and his wife the apartment would create a volatile situation. What should you do?
a. Not tell the couple about the vacancy for their own good
b. Tell the couple about the vacancy but warn them they wouldn’t be comfortable renting it
c. Tell the couple about the vacancy without seeking to influence their decision about taking it
A: c. Tell the couple about the vacancy without seeking to influence their decision about taking it.
Landlords and leasing agents aren’t allowed to say or do things (or omit to say or do things) to protect rental prospects from themselves. Prospects have the right to make their own housing decisions even if you deem them unwise or dangerous. Nor can you allow neighbors with biases against protected classes—in this case, military status—exercise a de facto veto over where a prospect can live. Your responsibility, in short, is to tell all prospects about all suitable vacancies and keep your own views and opinions out of it, particularly if those views or opinions are based on protected class. So, c. is the right answer.
Wrong answers explained:
a. Concealing or lying to prospects about a vacancy is never a good option, especially when the reason for doing it is related to a prospect’s protected class.
b. Telling prospects where they’d feel “comfortable” based on protected class is illegal steering, even when the person who engages in it is well intentioned and sincerely only trying to protect the prospect from making a bad decision.
For guidance on how to avoid military and veteran status discrimination, see our November 2023 lesson, available to premium subscribers here.