June 2009 Coach's Quiz
We have given you six rules for protecting the safety of your community without violating fair housing law. Now let's look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the COACH's Quiz to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, 1)b, 2)a, and so on.
And this month, there's an extra credit assignment: Judge for Yourself, a description of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court's ruling to see how much you have learned.
COACH'S TIP: The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
One of your residents calls your office at least once a week with various complaints about her neighbors. Each time, you have followed your policy by asking her to file a written complaint and investigating the problem. After each investigation, you found no basis for her complaints. The next time she complains, you should:
Just make a note that she complained and put it in your file.
Wait until she calls a second time before you look into the matter.
Follow your community's procedures to investigate the complaint.
You receive a complaint about a resident who has been threatening his neighbors with violence and damaging their property when he is drunk. When you speak to the resident, he admits to some misconduct, but asks you to overlook it because he is an alcoholic. Even though the resident's behavior is a lease violation that would justify eviction, you must give him another chance because he is disabled and entitled to a reasonable accommodation. True or false?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
You are the owner of a rental community where a resident lives with her teenaged grandchildren. Across the street is a unit leased to a woman who doesn't live there and occupied by her son.
For two or three months, your property manager has received complaints from the resident about people who look like gang members hanging around the unit across the street, breaking outdoor lights, and whistling at her granddaughter. Another resident also complained about the men, but the property manager said that there was nothing she could do about it.
A short time later, the grandson is shot and injured in the crossfire in a gang confrontation involving a guest of the resident across the street. The grandson sues you for damages, contending that you were responsible for his injuries because you failed to exclude gang members from the community or to evict them when they harassed other residents.
What did the court decide?
Coach's Answers & Explanations
Correct answer: d
Reason: Rule #5 applies here:
Rule #5: Promptly Respond to Complaints About Residents
Take all residents’ complaints about their neighbors seriously. Follow your policies and procedures to investigate each one and document your response.
Wrong answers explained:
Even though you didn't substantiate her prior complaints, that doesn't mean that she doesn't have a legitimate complaint this time. And if you ignore her complaint, she could accuse you of discrimination if she is a member of protected class.
Making a note of the complaint isn't enough. If you don't take her complaint seriously, you may be vulnerable to a fair housing complaint.
If your policy requires you to promptly respond to all complaints by residents, your decision to wait for a second complaint from this particular resident before taking action shows a lack of consistency—which could be used against you if she files a fair housing complaint.
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #3 & 6 apply here:
Rule #3: Consider Requests for Reasonable Accommodations Based on Disability
Rule #6: Take Corrective Action When Necessary
Fair housing law does not prevent you from taking action against the resident if his behavior amounted to a violation of the lease, even if he is considered to be disabled under fair housing law because of his alcoholism. However, it may be good idea to ask for legal advice before evicting him, because the FHA requires you to consider a disabled resident's request for an exception to your community's rules as a reasonable accommodation.
Wrong answer explained:
A resident with a history of alcoholism may qualify as an individual with a disability under fair housing law, but it does not require you to allow the resident to remain at your community if his current conduct shows that he poses a direct threat to other residents.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
The California Supreme Court dismissed the case, ruling that the owner was not liable for the gunshot injury to a resident caused by the guest of a suspected gang member living across the street. The court said that landlords, including mobile home park owners, have no legal duty to reject a prospective resident that they believe, or have reason to believe, is a gang member.
Concerns about housing discrimination were among the reasons for the court's decision. If owners regularly faced liability for injuries that gang members caused on the property, then owners would tend to deny rental to anyone who might be a gang member or even, more broadly, to any family one of whose members may be in a gang. The court said that the result in many cases would be arbitrary discrimination based on race, ethnicity, family composition, dress and appearance, or reputation. All of these were, at least in some instances, illegal under state law and could themselves subject the owner to liability.
The injured resident unsuccessfully argued that the owner had a duty to at least check the criminal record of an applicant who looked, dressed, or talked like a gang member. The court said that wouldn't work because it could lead to liability if the owner failed to seek out the applicant's criminal record—and lead to a housing discrimination claim if the owner treated applicants differently, depending on their ethnicity, family composition, or appearance in either deciding to obtain a criminal history or in deciding what prior convictions and arrests would disqualify an applicant.
The court said the alternative—requiring full histories on all applicants and their families and rejecting anyone with arrests or convictions for any crime that could have involved a gang—would involve significant expense and delay for the owner and unfairly deprive many Californians of housing [Casteneda v. Olsher, California, 2007].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|Keeping Your Community Safe: Fair Housing Considerations|