As a leasing professional, conducting prospect tours is an everyday task that requires you to be mindful of fair housing laws. Discrimination in housing is illegal and can result in severe legal consequences. Therefore, implementing fair housing best practices can help ensure that you and your team remain compliant at all times.
Consistent Tour Policy
Having a consistent policy on how and when tours are offered is essential to avoid potential fair housing violations. Discrimination can occur if one prospect is offered a tour while another is not, based on their protected class. Another thing to keep in mind is what is shown on the tour.
For example, you shouldn’t give a tour of the grounds, amenities and units to Prospect A and then only show the grounds and units to Prospect B. Any disparity in how you conduct your tours is leaving you open for potential fair housing complaints.
Why is documentation a critical part of prospect tours? Consider the following scenario:
Several tours have been scheduled, but the leasing agent was called away before they could complete them. What should you do?
We all know that a leasing office can be incredibly busy at times and potentially short-staffed. Documentation is crucial when situations arise and you must reschedule a tour or have another leasing agent step in. Ensure that all information about what happened, why it happened and what alternatives were offered are clearly noted. If there is ever a question as to why some tours were done and not others, you will have clear documentation to show precisely what happened.
Having a policy regarding which units are shown is also essential. Of course, we want to show potential residents what we think will interest them based on their guest card or conversations you have had. However, if leasing agents offer different units to different prospects, the reasons for showing those particular units must be noted to avoid any appearance of discrimination or illegal steering.
Non-Accessible Units and Media Accessibility
Showing units that are on a second floor or higher to a disabled prospect can prove to be a challenge, notably, if the building happens to be older and does not have elevators. You cannot just shrug your shoulders and only show units on the first floor, as this is blatant discrimination.
Offering an alternative tour is crucial. A video or picture book can be used as a substitute as long as it provides a complete description of the unit. Additionally, when using videos or offering virtual tours, it is crucial to ensure that the media is accessible to people with visual or auditory impairments. All media must include full-text descriptions and audio components.
Implementing fair housing best practices in your leasing operations is essential. This article reviewed four fundamental areas that need to be regularly reviewed for fair housing compliance. With a little bit of thought, thorough documentation and a clear tour policy, you can avoid potential fair housing problems. And as always, remember that fair housing training for all staff is critical to help everyone stay compliant.
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.