Give Staff a Fair Housing Tip Sheet
In the March 2016 lesson, Fair Housing Coach features 37 tips to help you and your staff prevent fair housing trouble at your community. Fair housing law can get pretty complicated, but the tips included in this lesson cover management strategies to ensure fair housing compliance, along with training tips so all your staff members understand what they should—and shouldn’t—do to head off potential problems. Here’s a sampling:
Guard Against Unlawful Profiling: During fair housing investigations, testers often are on the lookout for unlawful profiling—differences in the way that prospects are treated because of clues about their race or national origin based on their name or manner of speech. Examples include telling someone who speaks with an accent or whose name suggests that he’s a member of a minority group that you have no vacancies, but telling everyone else that you do have units available. It could also be more subtle—like routinely delaying or failing to follow up on inquiries from prospects whose voices, names, and other attributes suggest that they are members of a protected class. To avoid any suggestion of unlawful profiling, be sure to follow up promptly with anyone who expresses an interest in living at your community, whether by phone, email, or through your website.
Know How to Handle Reasonable Accommodation Requests: Learn how to recognize reasonable accommodation requests by or on behalf of individuals with disabilities. No special words are required to make the request, so you should take it seriously anytime a prospect, applicant, or resident says he needs or wants something because of a disability. Some requests present difficult challenges, but many complaints arise simply from failure to take requests seriously or to address them properly. Ignoring accommodation requests, undue delay in responding to them, or turning them down without proper consideration may itself lead to a fair housing complaint—regardless of the merits of the request. Thoroughly evaluate the request and respond in a timely manner. Be sure to document every step in the process—just in case you are called to defend your actions.
Ensure Rules Are Fair—and Applied Fairly: It’s okay to enforce reasonable rules, especially in common areas, where the community has a legitimate interest in maintaining the property, ensuring safety, and protecting the right of all residents to peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Just make sure that the rules don’t unfairly target families with children—or anyone else protected under fair housing law. You may have legitimate concerns about outdoor play activities that could disturb neighbors or damage valuable landscaping. But you could trigger a discrimination complaint if the rules unreasonably interfere with the ability of families with children to live in the community.
For more tips on how to prevent fair housing complaints at your community, see the Coach’s March 2016 lesson, available to subscribers here.