As we have come to the end of another eventful year, it makes sense to take a moment and reflect on what we have accomplished and begin to set goals for the future. Part of this should include an overview of your fair housing practices. This article will share five quick steps to help you get started toward having a fair-housing-friendly 2023.
Step1: Stay Up to Date on New or Changing Fair Housing Laws
As we all know, fair housing laws can and do change. It is essential that every property management professional is aware of how these changes may impact them. In addition, you also need to remember that there is more to fair housing than just federal laws or oversight. You also need to stay current on state and city/municipal levels.
Doing your own research is possible but can be time-consuming. Subscribing to your local fair housing organization is an efficient way to stay up to date, or you can consult an attorney that specializes in fair housing.
Step 2: Review Your Policies and Procedures
As stated above, fair housing laws are ever-evolving. As a result, an excellent and often necessary best practice is regularly reviewing your policies and procedures. Ask yourself: Are they up-to-date? Could they be considered too broad or restrictive? Do they follow the law?
Your policies and procedures do not need to be complicated or lengthy. But they do need to be clear and follow the laws that pertain to them. Again, if you are unsure, consulting an attorney is always a good idea to ensure compliance.
Step 3: Update Your Documentation and Forms
When was the last time you reviewed your forms? Are they still one-size-fits-all or pretty generic? While these definitely can be used, they can leave you a little more exposed to mistakes or oversights.
As we know, not every request requires the same information. For example, a request for an assistance animal is going to require more information than a request for an accessible parking spot. Having forms that are specific to the many different requests we come across will help expedite the process and get you the right information you need while creating consistent documentation should a question or fair housing claim ever happen.
Step 4: Ensure Fair-Housing-Friendly Marketing and Advertising
Marketing and advertising continue to be a challenge for the property management industry. Why? While, of course, we want to attract that perfect resident to our property, we need to do it in a way that is fair, equitable, and inclusive.
Marketing and advertising can take on many different shapes and forms. From advertisements around the community and social media to the types of photos and decorations in our leasing offices, just to name a few. Whatever outlets we choose, caution is needed to establish a standard of being diverse and accessible to everyone to avoid even the smallest appearance of discrimination.
Step 5: Investing in Fair Housing Training and Education
Of course, we can’t forget about targeted fair housing education and training! Without this, you are just asking for trouble. Every individual in your organization should have access to education and training that at least covers the basics of fair housing.
Currently, there is a wide variety of training options available to help fit each individual’s learning style. From webinars and online self-directed learning, to—finally—the availability to rejoin in-person education sessions. All of these can aid in staff having a thorough understanding of fair housing laws and help avoid potential problems.
These five steps serve as a high-level overview to help you quickly identify any potential gaps. Naturally, there are more granular items that need to be addressed. Keeping that in mind, we encourage everyone to continue to stay current in our dynamic industry through ongoing training and education and wish everyone a fair-housing-friendly 2023!
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.