We are taking the alphabet, letter by letter, so perhaps you can do things a little bit better to make your community open to all, and not take an unexpected fair housing fall! And, because Fair Housing covers a lot, we’ve created a resource to print out on the spot!
A is for Animals, and you can say no,
To my dog, cat, or birdie, unless I can show,
That this critter is truly needed by me,
To manage better with my disability.
Then dog, cat or birdie is not a pet,
So accepting my assistance animal is a wise bet.
B is for Boa, as in the large snake,
So that you understand that you might have to take,
This reptile, or the monkey or even the horse
(The latter is a miniature one, of course),
Because these can be assistance animals too,
And when appropriate they move in with you.
C is for Children, they will live with you,
Unless your residents are older – 55 to 62.
Be careful how you restrict them with your community rules,
Since perhaps except for your gyms, your spas and your pools,
Your policies should reflect the behaviors you desire,
From both the young and those with ages much higher.
D is for Damages, and oh, what the cost,
If yours is the legal position that’s lost.
From punitive damages to penalties civil,
The amount you might pay could make you snivel.
Communities have lost millions in some of their cases,
Where fair housing violations have been the basis.
E is for Everyone, the message two-pronged,
All of us have protection when rights are wronged.
We each qualify, in some way, for equal opportunity,
But keep in mind, in our business, we each have liability.
Sales, management, leasing or maintenance,
Our level of employment is no legal defense.
F is for Fair Housing Poster, to let residents see,
Your commitment to equal housing opportunity.
The law says the poster must be in view,
To those who have come to seek housing with you.
At least 11” x 14” is the size it must be,
And displayed where it is easy to see.
G is for Gender, which simply means “sex”,
When we are looking at the fair housing context.
Our sleeping arrangements are not yours to ponder,
So don’t even hint that in fact you may wonder,
Which bedrooms will house me, or my daughter or son,
Because this is how fair housing cases are won.
H is for Hailstorm, when I want to see
What it is that you have to offer to me.
Do you take me to tour in the storm at its height,
Or how about when gloom turns into night?
Think out your plan now, and put it in writing,
So cases based on tours are not ones you are fighting.
I is for Insurance, which you may have or not.
Often communities don’t know what they’ve got.
Don’t assume you have coverage for that or for this,
It can be costly if it’s fair housing coverage you miss.
Talk with your agent, read your policy through.
What it doesn’t provide or cover may surprise you.
J is for Jargon, all industries have it,
Expressions we use from force of habit.
Depending on viewpoints, there are those who say,
If you use certain words, you might have to pay.
So look out for “adult” – “traditional” – and “active”
And beware as well “mature” and “exclusive.”
K is for King, as in Doctor and Reverend,
Whose civil rights fight was abruptly ended.
Then Congress decided in response to enact,
For the first time ever, the Fair Housing Act.
Out of sadness and tragedy our country would see
A commitment to equal housing opportunity.
L is for Logo, the house with the roof,
And words of commitment that are the proof:
“Equal Housing Opportunity” is available here,
And to no other place, you will we steer.
Use it on ads, signs, leases and such,
A little logo whose message means much.
M is for Mothers-in-law, those bedrooms Master,
And you need to know that it’s not a disaster
To say Merry Christmas at that time of year,
So no fair housing action need you to fear.
HUD has said these words are OK,
As long as all else is done the fair housing way.
N is for National Origin, which tells us
It matters not whether Spain, Haiti or Belarus
Is from where someone or their family came,
Because no matter the country, you’ll treat them the same,
As you treat all others who knock on your door,
Because this is one of the protected classes EHO is for.
O is for Occupancy Standards, the number,
Of how many people can live and can slumber,
In housing that’s owned or managed by you;
Generally for each bedroom the number is two.
But it could be more, which you may not realize,
Depending on law changes, or the dwelling’s overall size.
P is for Parking, a significant issue
When those with disabilities approach you,
Needing a particular designated spot,
Somewhere in the community’s parking lot.
Reasonable accommodation is what you may often owe,
Requiring that you assign parking and violators tow.
Q is for Quiet, and yes, that can be
A condition imposed at your community.
But remember this standard is for everyone,
The adults, the children, the vow-silenced nun.
Noise is the issue, and all must you scold,
Not just the young ones, but those who are old.
R is for Reasonable Accommodation that’s often due,
Whenever the applicant or resident needs it from you.
It must of course be reasonable and disability related,
Though the disability does not need to ever be stated.
So ask “Is what you are asking based on a disability?”
Then address the issue with a well-thought out policy.
S is for Steering, when you send them away,
Or limit the housing at which they may stay.
Playgrounds or ponds, tennis courts or stairs,
It matters not for families or those in wheelchairs.
Any available housing your prospects may choose;
Limit their options, the lawsuit you’ll lose.
T is for Testers, they have standing to sue
Your company, your manager, and yes, even you.
And while no law requires your consistency,
It’s certainly a great operating policy.
Email, text, phone or in-person communication,
All people should get the very same information.
U is for Unjust, and it’s important to this poet
To point out that everyone should know it –
It’s not just about law or about what it can cost,
And it’s not just about the opportunity that’s lost.
It’s about destroying someone’s personal dignity
By denying simple equal housing opportunity.
V is for Voice, and now people do sue
Based on the concept that it’s easy for you
To know their race, particularly white or black,
Even though a visual meeting you lack.
So promptly return phone messages, and invite those who call,
So you don’t take a linguistic profiling fall.
W is for White Only Advertising, a major sin
When you select only blonde Barbie® to appear in,
Your ads, so that those of color and those with wheelchairs or kids
Believe that you will turn down their housing bids.
The majority and minority groups you must use,
If human models to market is the technique you choose.
X is for Xenophobia, “the dislike, mistrust or fear
Of foreigners or that which is strange” to us here.
And while you may to such a phobia cling,
To act upon it is not a wise thing.
So get used to diversity, in our lives it’s a fact,
And much is protected under the Fair Housing Act.
Y is for Yarmulke, worn by the observant Jew,
A religious symbol likely recognized by you.
In decorating and advertising please stay away,
From using any symbols that clearly show or say,
That the message is intended in a religious way.
(But Santa and the Easter Bunny are actually OK!)
Z is for ZIP Code, it’s where people live,
And there is information about them that zip codes give.
Perhaps their ethnicity or race or income,
Is known by where they now make their home.
So target market by zip only if you can show
A good business reason for where your promotions go.
Nadeen Green is Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions and teaches fair housing to our industry (more than 1000 programs, and lots of articles and blogs for the past 20+ years). Reprinted with permission of Multifamily Insiders.