Fair Housing Compliance in a Post-9/11 World

The Coach’s June 2013 lesson discusses how to comply with fair housing rules in post-9/11 America. Though much has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, the recent bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon serve as a reminder that our nation remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

For multifamily housing communities, the challenge is to continue in efforts to safeguard property and residents while ensuring that everyone is treated fairly, regardless of race, color, religion, and national origin. Here are some tips from the June lesson:

Keep Personal Opinions Out of the Leasing Process. With intense media coverage of the Boston bombings and other terrorist activities, it’s easy to get caught up in speculation over who was responsible and why. But whatever your personal opinions, don’t let them affect decisions about who may live in your community and how they are treated. It’s unlawful to discriminate against anyone because he is—or is believed to be—a member of a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group.

Don’t Exclude Applicants Because of Racial, Ethnic, or Religious Background. It’s a violation of fair housing law to exclude or otherwise discourage prospects from living in your community because of their race, skin color, ethnic background, or religious affiliation.

Beware of Linguistic, Email Profiling. Fair housing advocates often conduct telephone tests to check for linguistic profiling—that is, discrimination based on how a prospect sounds over the phone. And there has been increased attention on “email profiling,” discrimination based on perceptions about racial, ethnic, or religious characteristics from the name used in online communications. Routinely neglecting calls or emails from prospects with foreign accents or names could lead to fair housing trouble.

Apply Consistent Application Policies. You could face accusations of housing discrimination if you treat members of particular racial, ethnic, or religious groups differently than other applicants by requiring them to meet more stringent screening criteria or by subjecting them to more cumbersome application procedures.

Don’t Engage in Unlawful Steering. When discussing vacancies with prospects, be guided by their stated requirements—not by your preferences or assumptions about where they would prefer to live in your community. Regardless of your intentions, it’s unlawful to limit a prospect’s housing choices by encouraging or discouraging them from living in your community—or certain parts of the community—because of their race, religion, national origin, or other protected characteristic.

Consistently Apply Community Rules. Fair housing law requires communities to enforce their rules in a nondiscriminatory manner. You can’t target certain residents for enforcement of the rules—or apply more severe penalties for violations by certain residents—because of their race, religion, or national origin.

Don’t Ignore Complaints of Discrimination or Harassment. Take steps to investigate and, if necessary, to redress any reports of discrimination or harassment against your residents because of their race, religion, or national origin.

The complete lesson, "Complying with Fair Housing Law in a Post-9/11 World," is available on our homepage and in our Archive (click on the June 2013 issue).


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