How To Protect Yourself From Fair Housing Claims
We live in a very litigious world. Unfortunately, it is a reality of business that everyone becomes a defendant at some point. You may not have control over a tenant naming you in a complaint, but you do have control over how well you come out of it.
The basic tenent of the “Fair Housing Opportunity” is that “It is illegal to Discriminate Against Any Person because of:
(1) Race (2) Color (3) Religion (4) Sex (5) Handicap (6) Familial Status (7) National Origin.
Here are some Very Important tips which can help you reduce your chances of being liable for a violation of fair housing laws.
- Post fair housing posters in your management office. This lets the public (and your own staff) know that you support fair housing. You can find them at HUD’s website or your local equal opportunity office.
- Educate yourself. Go to trainings on fair housing. Be sure that all staff gets trained. Even maintenance staff should be trained on the rudiments of fair housing.
- Become personally committed to fostering fair housing. Embrace the goals of fair housing and welcome all individuals to live in your properties. Quit expressing any negative generalizations about people. You be the leader for your staff. Never joke about people’s heritage as it can get you in big trouble.
- Keep a thorough log of all your actions. Keep copies of every piece of document you give to a tenant or applicant. Keep a log or file diary of every dialogue and contact with a tenant or applicant. It is not easy to follow these simple yet tedious rules, but I can reassure you that this will help you in the long run.
- Follow policies and stick to them. Do have written policies for your applicant selection, lease renewals and how to handle everyday situations. There should be a strategy for how you will handle requests for reasonable accommodations. Keep them in a place where all your staff can easily access them. Make sure that all your staff knows about them.
- It is always a good idea to get good guidance from an attorney if needed. Don’t make an effort to deal with a HUD complaint or a lawsuit on your own.
Following these rules meticulously will help you keep you out of any Fair Housing Litigation.Following these rules is not at all unmanageable. Like any other business you just have to setup a strategy which will make it a straight forward to comply the Fair Housing rules.