Top 10 Tips for Fair Housing
Passed by Congress in 1968, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits all forms of housing discrimination include selling, renting, and lending. April is the month we celebrate the progress we have made and educate ourselves to ensure we do not participate in illegal discriminatory practices.
We want to take this opportunity to share our Top 10 Fair Housing tips to ensure you are up to date on the latest and greatest.
Tip #1 – Protected Classes
There are 7 federally protected classes outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD): Race, Color, National Origin, Religion, Sex, Familial Status, and Disability. States, counties and cities can also implement protected class as well. It’s important to stay up to date on what additional protections may be in place in the city and state where you are located.
Tip #2 – Gathering Information
Asking questions about who will be living in the apartment home should be done using the terms occupants or people. Avoid asking how many adults versus children will live in the apartment home as this would be a violation of Fair Housing based on familial status protection.
Tip #3 – Connecting with Customers
When you’re working with a current or future resident it’s important to make sure you are not asking questions that could be construed as discriminatory. For example, if you love the person’s accent, asking them could be considered a violation of Fair Housing based on National Origin. It may seem like you’re making small talk but, it could lead to a discrimination complaint.
Tip #4 – Advertising
When advertising stick to the facts and details about the community and apartment home you’re renting. Phrases like “No Children Allowed” are a violation of Fair Housing. Utilize inclusive language and diverse images that will cast a wide net to appeal to all different types of people.
Tip #5 – Maintenance Requests
Your maintenance requests should be completed in order of priority and primarily on a first received basis. You want to make sure they are done promptly and in compliance with your local Landlord/Tenant Laws to ensure there is no impression of preferential treatment based on a protected class.
Tip #6 –Accommodations and Modifications
All requests for reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification must be considered and responded to in a timely manner. A reasonable accommodation is making an adjustment to rules, procedures, or services; and example would be allowing a service, assistive, or emotional support animal in a building that has a no pet policy. A reasonable modification is when a physical change is made to the structure, such as installing grab bars in the bathrooms or making an area wheelchair accessible by adding an access ramp.
Tip #7 –Service Animals
A current or future resident with a disability may request to have a service, assistive, or emotional support animal reside in the apartment with them as a reasonable accommodation. The ADA approves only dogs as service animals and ensures they are trained. Any other animal will be considered either an assistive or emotional support animal depending on the type of support or assistance that the animal provides to the current or future resident. You can request a letter from a health care provider or a qualified third-party source but may not inquire about the nature of someone’s disability.
Tip #8 – Source of Income
While many local areas have had Section 8 or Source of Income as a protected class in one aspect or another for years, in most cases, they will now be combined and protected via Source of Income. Keep in mind that people receiving SSI, Child Support, Alimony, and many other government based sources of income are protected, too.
Tip #9 – On-Site Teams
Fair Housing pertains to all personnel at apartment communities and in the apartment industry as a whole. This includes your office team, maintenance team and even vendors that may interact with future or current residents. Ensuring they are adequately trained will ensure you are always in compliance.
Tip #10 – Education
Fair Housing Month is a great time to do an annual Fair Housing refresher. Make sure to find a reputable training provider that has the most updated information.
We hope these tips will aid you in your interactions with current and future residents. Thank you for providing excellent service to your communities and remaining dedicated to ensuring the Multi-Family Housing Industry continues to grow year by year!
By Heather Edwards