What’s your New Year’s resolution? Save money? Exercise more? Typically we focus on personal goals, but what about professional development? A career in property management is truly dynamic and requires us all to stay up to date on the latest trends as well as training. This is especially true when it comes to fair housing.
Now is an excellent time to review our team members’ and our basic understanding of the intricacies of the Fair Housing Act, along with ensuring that we all have a thorough understanding of the more complicated aspects. This article will share the top five fair housing topics that continue to be a cause of fair housing complaints and require an advanced level of knowledge and training. Review the scenarios and questions to see if you might need to brush up on a few of the more challenging situations that can arise in property management.
Domestic Violence – A Complicated Topic
Domestic violence, unfortunately, is on the rise and is an incredibly sensitive topic. That being said, it still needs to be addressed. First of all, when we discuss domestic violence, many will immediately think of The Violence Against Women Act. Remember, though, that the laws that protect victims of domestic violence apply to all types of housing providers. No one is exempt.
Consider the following scenarios and ask yourself how you or your company would handle them:
- A public instance of domestic abuse has occurred on your property? What are the next steps?
- A prospect has disclosed that they were evicted from their prior residence due to the fact that they were a victim of domestic violence. Now what?
As you can see, domestic violence raises all kinds of questions about whether you are dealing with the victim or the perpetrator. Specialized training and clear company policies will help everyone stay compliant while tactfully managing these types of situations.
Is Your Marketing Fair Housing Friendly?
Is your marketing handled in-house, or do you outsource it? Does your company have clear marketing policies? Is every staff member that is involved with marketing aware of how fair housing laws can affect marketing? Marketing can take a very broad range past the standard pamphlet or advertisement. It can include things like pictures in the leasing office to what employees may be posting on company social media. Added to that, even the type of funding your property receives can impact what kind of marketing you are required to do.
As we start to move into 2023, now is a good time to review your marketing strategy and ensure that everyone involved knows how to keep it fair housing friendly.
Criminal History Screening – Can You Just Say No?
Criminal history screening has also seen a recent uptick in complaints and lawsuits due to its complex nature. One of the more common mistakes we see when it comes to criminal history screening is when leasing agents try to dissuade a prospect from filling out an application and paying the standard fees associated with it due to their criminal history. While this may seem like they are doing the “right” thing, it can land a company in all kinds of legal trouble.
This is just one of the scenarios that might happen. Blanket policies of just saying “no” are never a good idea, and once again, every person that is involved in the application process needs to have training to help them navigate this complex and sensitive process.
Emotional Support Animals – A Potentially Hairy Situation
“Oops, did I forget to tell you about my emotional support animal when I applied? Meet Kujo, my one-hundred-pound furry friend.” What’s the saying… if I only had a nickel? The number of requests and subsequent complaints regarding emotional support animals only grows year after year. Hurdles like misinformation, online certification and verifiers, and many other variables create a potential minefield for most housing providers.
The best protection from a potential fair housing claim of discrimination is to make sure that everyone has received training to understand the law, the resident’s rights, and the rights of the property itself. Along with that having clear policies and specific forms will aid in handling the ever-growing reasonable accommodation requests for an emotional support animal.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Doesn’t Stop in the Office
Sexual harassment training is needed within the workplace, but it shouldn’t end there. What about training in regard to employee and resident relations? Consider some of these more common scenarios that can end in a fair housing claim if not handled properly:
- Employees and residents are friends and socialize outside of work.
- Employees dating residents.
- Access to a unit is needed, but only a child is home.
To avoid a potential fair housing claim, every company needs to include additional sexual harassment training that provides clear policies regarding employee/resident relationships.
So how did you do? These are just a few of the more complicated fair housing situations that can arise. If you found yourself struggling or unsure how to handle any of these issues, or perhaps you are personally aware of others that you are not clear on how to handle, we strongly encourage you to make continued fair housing training one of your New Year’s resolutions.
The Fair Housing Institute, Inc. provides fair housing training and not legal advice. The users of The Fair Housing Institute, Inc. web site and its educational information should understand that the information provided within its site is not a substitute for legal advice by competent attorneys. For more information, visit www.fairhousinginstitute.com.