The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying or securing financing for any housing transaction.  The Fair Housing Act specifically covers discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children. (Provided by HUD) 

Laws Prohibit Illegal Housing Discrimination

Discrimination is illegal in any housing situation if it is based on, or adversely affects a “protected class.”  That is, if someone is denied a home, is treated differently, or is harassed because of one of the reasons listed below, it is illegal. 

Consistency is Key!

Remember to be consistent within your daily job performance and interactions when dealing with residents, prospective residents and their guests.

Never make assumptions regarding disabilities, if an animal is a companion or pet and treat everyone the same!

Discrimination is sometimes deliberate or unintentional due to lack of Fair Housing knowledge toward residents, prospective residents and their guests that fall into any protected class category.

More often than not, discrimination occurs during the leasing process while dealing with prospective residents.  Be careful!

The information and purpose of leasing and Fair Housing is not to scare you out of the industry.  It is an extremely important part of the job performance and expectation.  Fair Housing classes will give you the understanding of pitfalls of falling into possible discrimination in Fair Housing.  It also prepares and gives the tools necessary to help avoid complaints. 

Leasing Examples

Example:  Oh my, your children are beautiful!  I have the perfect home for you on the ground floor by the playground.  I am so excited to show you this apartment.”

Intention:  More than likely, the leasing associate has the best intentions for the prospective residents, but it is still DISCRIMINATION.

Perception:  This is discrimination in the form of steering and could prompt a complaint.

Correct Action:  Anyone applying for an apartment can live in any available unit and must be shown the same apartments as anyone applying.

Prevention:  Educate!  Educate!  Educate!  It is necessary to make certain that the associates working for you are knowledgeable and trained to minimize the risk to you and your company. 

Discrimination is Discrimination!

Unfortunately, even the best of intentions of the leasing consultant can put the owner and management company at risk.  Make no mistake, Fair Housing and discrimination is real and happens. 

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

Learn about the Federal, State and Local protected class on the Fair Housing website – http://fhco.org. 

Documentation

How does documentation have the potential for a complaint?

Example:  You may have a star on one guest card and not another or you may have written “She is so sweet – would make a great resident!” 

Perception:  This could be construed as discrimination based on the fact that these types of doodles and or comments were not present on all guest cards.  These guest cards would be brought into question should a complaint be filed.

Remember not to doodle or make marks on applications, guest cards or any paperwork related to prospect or resident! 

Fair Housing Laws apply to owners, agents, property management companies, maintenance, leasing and administrative staff, outside vendors such as landscapers, painters, exterminators, insurers, etc., Real Estate agents, Brokers, lenders, homeowners and condo associations, individuals, corporate and business owners, architects, builders, developers and engineers.  

Ignorance of the law is no excuse and responsibility is non-delegable. 

Training Staff

A couple of thoughts – ask your associates how they address these scenarios in the leasing process. Below are common answers and/or thoughts you will receive from the well-intentioned leasing associates and are discriminatory, in my experience during training.  Do not make assumptions!  

  • Woman with two young children?
    This woman and her children will be quiet and I can put them upstairs. 
  • Married couple with two teenaged boys?
    Those boys are going to be trouble. 
  • Married couple with one teenaged girl?
    They’ll be quiet residents. 

Do not make assumptions!  Discrimination is real and can be prevented. 

Dana Brown is with EDGE Training – Full Spectrum Residential Services, LLC.  Reprinted with permission of On-Site.