December 2023 Coach's Quiz
Which of the following is legitimate justification for refusing to rent to a Palestinian national who speaks heavily accented English?
a. You can’t understand what she’s saying
b. She wouldn’t fit in or feel comfortable with your predominately Jewish tenant base
c. She’s not a U.S. citizen
d. Her rental history is unsatisfactory
A tenant on the fourth floor comes to you with a disturbing report: She claims that in the weeks since the Middle East war began, an Egyptian tenant (Mr. E) has been directing antisemitic slurs and threats against his Jewish next-door neighbor (Mr. J). Messrs. E and J have lived next door to each other for years, and this is the first time you’ve ever heard any reports of animosity between them. What’s the first thing you should do?
a. Immediately transfer Mr. J to a different floor to get him away from Mr. E
b. Ignore the report and wait for Mr. J to come forward and complain
c. Investigate the report and seek to mediate the dispute if it turns out to be true
d. Evict Mr. E immediately
COACH’S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: d
Reason: Rules #2, #4, and #5 apply here:
Rule #2: Don’t Allow Your Personal Views to Affect Your Rental Decisions
Rule #4: Don’t Require Applicants & Tenants to Speak English
Rule #5: Avoid Illegal Steering
FHA protection against national origin and other forms of discrimination requires equal—not more favorable—treatment. So, if a Palestinian doesn’t meet your standard rental history qualification criteria, you can reject her the way you would any other applicant, as long as you consistently apply that standard to all other applicants regardless of their nationality, religion, race, etc. So, d. is the right answer.
Wrong answers explained:
a. is wrong because a person’s accent is inextricably intertwined with their national origin. To quote HUD guidance: “It is inconceivable that a housing decision that treats someone differently because he or she speaks English fluently but with an accent is anything but intentional discrimination because of national origin.”
b. is wrong because seeking to segregate Palestinians from Jews is steering and a form of national origin-based discrimination, even if you think keeping the applicant away from Jewish tenants is in her own best interests.
c. is wrong because excluding applicants solely because they’re not U.S. citizens may constitute racial, religious, or national origin discrimination. What makes this tricky is that you might have to perform citizenship screening under certain HUD programs or state and local laws. That’s why you need to be aware of and follow whichever rules apply to your own property and ensure you have a sound, nondiscriminatory justification for whichever policy you choose.
Correct answer: c
Reason: This situation brings Rule #6 into play:
Rule #6: Don’t Commit or Allow Others to Commit Harassment
To the extent it exists, the landlord’s duty is to prevent tenant-on-tenant harassment that it knows about. The witness’s report in this case puts the landlord on notice and triggers the duty to act. The first thing the landlord should do is investigate by interviewing Mr. J and Mr. E. Upon determining that the report is true, the landlord should take reasonable actions to protect Mr. J. While each situation is different, getting the sides to talk things out through mediation is often an excellent starting point. If mediation is infeasible or ineffective, the landlord would have to consider transfer, eviction, or other disciplinary action against Mr. E. Thus, c. is the right answer.
Wrong answers explained:
a. is wrong because transferring Mr. J is tantamount to punishing the victim and a form of discrimination to the extent it takes away Mr. J’s right to choose where he wants to live. This is true even if you think the transfer is in Mr. J’s best interests.
b. is wrong because the witness’s report has put you on notice of harassment, and once you know about it, you must address it and not simply wait for the victim to complain.
d. is wrong because the fair housing duty to stop tenants from harassing other tenants may include but doesn’t automatically require eviction. It’s up to the landlord to decide on the appropriate discipline based on the circumstances involved. But you don’t reach that point unless and until you:
- Do your investigation;
- Determine that the tenant is harassing his neighbor; and
- Consider steps to resolve the problem without having to discipline the harasser.
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|Preventing Discrimination Against Jews, Muslims & Arabs|