We are taking the alphabet, letter by letter,
So perhaps you can do things a little bit better;
To make your apartments open to all,
And not take an unexpected fair housing fall!
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,
But rather a service animal to whom you must let.
B is for Buildings, are they old or new?
Knowing this is important to you.
Since March 13, 1991 many units must be
Built to specific standards of accessibility.
Inside and outside, the burden’s on you,
And if the law wasn’t followed, I just might sue.
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 from those whose ages are 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.
Landlords have lost millions in some of their cases,
Where fair housing violations have been the bases.
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.
Whether in management, leasing or maintenance,
Our level of employment is no legal defense.
F is for Fair Housing Poster, so let me 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 hanging 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
The apartments that you will 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 suits based on tours are not ones you are fighting.
I is for Insurance, which you may have or not.
Often landlords don’t know what they’ve got.
Don’t assume you have coverage for that or for this,
It can be costly if its 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 which 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.
We have rhymed the letters A through M,
And if you have questions about any of them,
Then it would be wise that you further look,
To your attorney, or a fair housing book,
For info and answers on housing opportunity.
And now we’ll tackle the letters N all the way to Z.
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 an apartment 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 local laws, or the unit’s 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 property.
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 Recovery, which has been deemed to give
Protection of fair housing to those who may live
With an addiction that is now under control,
Meaning no drug use or abuse of alcohol.
While not intended for those who manufacture or deal,
Those with addictions have a disability that is real.
S is for Steering, when you send them away,
Or limit the units in which they may stay.
Don’t restrict families to apartments downstairs,
Or deny upper units to those using wheelchairs.
Any available units your prospects may choose;
Limit the 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,
‘s certainly a great operating policy.
Email, phone or in-person communication,
All people should get the same information.
U is for Unjust, and it’s important to this poet
To point out that everyone should know it –
‘s not just about law or about what it can cost
And it’s not just about the opportunity that’s lost.
‘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 return all 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 kids
Believe that you will turn down their housing bids.
The majority and minority groups you must use,
If human models are the marketing 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.
We have rhymed the letters N through Z,
To learn about housing opportunity.
If questions have been raised by this poetry,
Then consider asking your own attorney
For input and advice on what to do,
So that fair housing compliance is easy for you.
This article was written by Nadeen Green, Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutionsâ„¢. Nadeen teaches and writes about fair housing and she is Fair Housing Lady at fairhousing.forrent.com. The information contained in this article is not to be considered legal advice, and the author and FRMS strongly suggest that you consult with your own counsel as to any fair housing questions or problems you may have.