Enter your email address for weekly access to top multifamily blogs!

Fair Housing Insiders

This is some blog description about this site

Fair Housing and the Supreme Court Ruling for the LGBTQ+Community

Fair Housing and the Supreme Court Ruling for the LGBTQ+Community
In line with the Supreme Court’s decision regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, President Biden signed an executive order earlier this year mandating that all federal agencies review the ruling and make needed adjustments. So what can property management companies expect? Should we wait on updated guidelines from HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) or should we make changes now to avoid any appearance of housing discrimination against LGBTQ+ prospects?   A Quick Legal Recap President Biden signed an Executive Order on January 25, 2021, requiring protections of LGBTQ+ people in housing, health care, and education. The Executive Order cites the recent Supreme Court decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, that held that the prohibition against sex discrimination in the Equal Employment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Executive Order requires the applicable federal agencies, including HUD, to promulgate actions consistent with Bostock and the various civil rights laws. This Executive Order will result in new HUD regulations explaining the protections of LGBTQ+ persons under the Fair Housing Act.     A New Protected Category? There is always confusion with any change. With this new ruling questions have been raised as to whether or not this ruling meant a new protected category. To clarify, we do not have a new protected category, rather we now have an expanded protected category of sex. Under this expansion, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation or the gender they are p......
Continue reading
592 Hits
0 Comments

Fair Housing and Internal Employee Communication

Fair Housing and Internal Employee Communication
Internal employee communication is essential to keep an office running smoothly and fair housing compliant. Without proper internal communication, staff can find themselves struggling to know what to do. Consider the following scenarios. Maintenance Work Request We all know that fair housing best practice is to complete maintenance requests in the order they were received except in the case of emergencies. But did you know that what can be considered an emergency can significantly vary from property to property? As a result, a new hire can quickly become confused as to how to properly handle maintenance work requests if the property’s policy isn’t clearly communicated. This could result in work orders being handled out of order and open the property up to a discrimination or fair housing complaint.   Internal communication of policies and procedures is an absolute must, especially when it comes to new hires. Supervision is also a key component; making sure that if a staff member has a question, there is someone there to help. Along with this, every staff member should have access to adequate documentation as well as regular training. Keeping these lines of internal communication available, aids in workplace compliance.  Callback Policies Callback policies are another place where fair housing compliance can become an issue if there isn’t proper internal communication. Today’s properties face the challenge of sorting through multiple contact points, and phone, email, text, and web-based communication are all part of most properties’ daily communications.    Just as with maintenance requests, fair housing best prac......
Continue reading
662 Hits
0 Comments

Fair Housing Attorney - The Specialist You Need

Fair Housing Attorney - The Specialist You Need
Should I Consult A Fair Housing Attorney? If you had a specific medical problem, you would want a specialist in that field. It stands to reason then that if you have questions regarding The Fair Housing Act, you would want to reach out to a lawyer that specializes in this.  This article takes a look at when you should consult a fair housing attorney. How this may look will depend on the size of your company and most importantly the advantages of doing so. A Fair Housing Specialist is Irreplaceable Many companies fall into a false sense of security that they have had enough fair housing training that they do not need to consult an attorney when a problem arises. Or perhaps your company is looking for a way to cut costs and wants to avoid attorney fees.  The fact is that fair housing laws are ever-evolving. Along with that, consider the cost of just one fair housing complaint. Consulting a fair housing attorney is an unavoidable part of this industry but it serves as a protection.  Updating Fair Housing Company Policies Consider one scenario that should always be reviewed by an attorney:  updating your company’s fair housing policies. As stated above, fair housing laws are constantly changing and your policies will have to change with them. Your policies not only need to be internally reviewed annually, they also need to be reviewed by a fair housing attorney at least every three to five years.  Keep in mind that if any c......
Continue reading
732 Hits
1 Comment

Fair Housing and Sexual Harassment - Staff and Resident Relationships

Fair Housing and Sexual Harassment - Staff and Resident Relationships
  What is sexual harassment in fair housing? Sexual harassment in fair housing focuses on staff or vendor interactions with residents as well as interaction between residents. Just as your staff is trained in sexual harassment between fellow employees, there needs to be training that focuses on how the staff interacts with residents with clear policies that define what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. This article will discuss different scenarios that could affect staff/resident relationships and what needs to be done to avoid a fair housing sexual harassment complaint.   Courteous or Too Friendly? Of course, we always want our staff to be courteous and respectful, but when can that cross the line? Consider, for example, an employee who pays a resident a compliment, perhaps on an article of clothing. This may seem totally acceptable. But what if this staff member continues on with compliments or is noted to pay certain residents more attention than others?   When we talk about sexual harassment, it may be difficult making distinctions about what’s legal and illegal, because there are broader definitions that include the culture or environment. The legal definition of sexual harassment is asking for sexual favors and doing it in a manner that suggests there will be a benefit to the person: they’ll get their rent reduced, they’ll get better services, things like that. Does this mean we are free to say anything as long as we aren’t getting something in return?  A casual conversation or compliment dropped one time is probably ......
Continue reading
651 Hits
0 Comments

Proper Documentation - A Fair Housing Must

Proper Documentation - A Fair Housing Must
Why is documentation so important? How can it help you in the event of a fair housing complaint? What are some best practices that your company should be following now? This article provides a brief overview of the value of documentation as well as some tips to ensure you and your staff are protected. Why Documentation is Important Perhaps a question is raised regarding the availability of a unit. A prospect wants to view the two-bedroom unit that a friend said was available only hours before. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.  Another scenario that we frequently see is when there has been a change in staff or management. Consider this situation; a resident comes in wanting to know what has been done regarding a complaint they lodged weeks ago with the prior manager. You look in the resident’s file and find nothing. Maybe something had been done, but now you have no documentation or proof to address the situation. Proper documentation will give your staff the information they need to provide a thorough explanation and state the facts. Without this, you are open to a possible fair housing complaint. A Fair Housing Complaint - Now What? These brief examples highlight how important documentation is. Every employee needs to be documenting every interaction they have with both existing and prospective residents. Along with this, there needs to be a regular audit completed to ensure that policies and procedures are being followed.  Documentation - Tips and Best Practices Here are some b......
Continue reading
601 Hits
1 Comment

Emotional Support Animals and the Fair Housing Act

Emotional Support Animals and the Fair Housing Act
Emotional Support Animals and the Fair Housing Act   Emotional support animals can come in all shapes and sizes, making it difficult to know how to properly handle accommodation requests and avoid possible fair housing complaints. This article will discuss the proper verification process for emotional support animals based on the Fair Housing Act and how to manage some common situations that may arise.  Emotional Support Animals - Proper Verification How do you handle an applicant that states they have an emotional support animal and presents you with an ESA letter? This can be tricky as many of these letters can be obtained from the internet without much of a professional relationship between the resident and the verifier.   To help with these situations, you should have a verification process in place based on the Fair Housing Act that includes the following:   Questions to ask the resident: Did you contact the verifier for the sole purpose of obtaining an ESA letter? Have you had more than one or two brief contacts with the verifier for the purpose of providing a verification? Does the verifier have personal knowledge of your disability and need for an animal? Has the verifier provided you with medical or mental health services? Questions to ask the verifier: Did the resident contact you for the purpose of obtaining a verification?  Other than providing a verification for an assistance animal, do you have an ongoing professional relationship with the resident by providing medical or mental health services beyond......
Continue reading
971 Hits
1 Comment

Testing Fair Housing Compliance

Testing Fair Housing Compliance
Fair Housing testing was first approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 as a means to uncover evidence of discrimination. Since the passage of the Fair Housing Amendments Act in 1988, testing programs have expanded to include tests for both national origin and disability discrimination. Telephone Testing Telephone testing is one of the most common methods of testing. This usually takes the form of one tester calling and inquiring about a specific apartment, and then another tester, possibly with an accent, also calls, inquiring about the same apartment. If your staff replies differently to the two phone calls, this could result in a fair housing complaint.   Staff needs to be trained with specific responses as well as how to document these conversations. This will help avoid possible discrimination allegations, and if one is lodged the documentation will provide a basis to prove otherwise.   Comparable/ Non-Comparable Fair Housing Testers Fair Housing testers are usually individuals from the local community who have been specifically trained to conduct fair housing tests. They are trained to use standardized forms that report what transpired during the test, such as the nature of the assistance given, the number, type, and location of units shown, the terms and conditions offered. Fair Housing testers may also use secret video and audio recording devices in jurisdictions that allow their use. Comparable and non-comparable testers will play their distinct parts to uncover any possible discrimination. In most cases, this means that Fair Housing testers may have to lie......
Continue reading
839 Hits
0 Comments

Fair Housing Training a Must For Maintenance Departments

Fair Housing Training a Must For Maintenance Departments
Maintenance professionals interact with residents on a regular basis, often being the first team members to arrive when a repair call is scheduled. This is why fair housing training needs to be a prerequisite. We expect all our team members to be kind and courteous to residents, but they also need to know where to draw the line to avoid any misinterpretations. Scenario-based fair housing training will aid in finding a balance and avoiding costly complaints. Consider a few of the following scenarios.   Moonlighting and Favors   It is common for residents to ask maintenance professionals to take on side jobs. This can lead to some serious problems. For example, a resident offers to pay an employee to move some things. But what happens if something gets broken, goes missing, or worse yet the employee is injured. Is the company going to be able to support the employee under the circumstances? Probably not as they weren’t on the clock so to speak. Best practices dictate that your employee kindly turns down the job to avoid any possible issues. What about a favor? Doing favors for a resident is something else the employee should politely turn down. Again, something could possibly occur while the employee is helping the resident. Along with that, this can open the door to accusations of favoritism something that you definitely want to avoid. Socializing Should employees socialize with residents outside of work? As a rule, it should be against company policy. What are the benefits of h......
Continue reading
721 Hits
0 Comments

Fair Housing Compliance and Social Media

Fair Housing Compliance and Social Media
Fair Housing compliance and social media can co-exist. However, there can be many challenges for property management professionals. Join us as we discuss how to ensure that your social media is Fair Housing compliant.   Consistent Use of Social Media and Fair Housing Compliance If there is no content plan, then typically what happens is the traditional default of showing a picture of the pool, the gardens, and/or the front entrance sign. But this does not have to be the case. The goal with social media marketing and Fair Housing is to be diverse. Diverse marketing takes content planning. When you can strategically plan out your content over a span of time to demonstrate diversity you can set yourself up for marketing success. This takes solid communication from corporate down to the site teams.   How Does Fair Housing Apply In Marketing Ads? This is an ever-evolving topic based on what options are available on digital ad platforms. Google and Facebook have been under scrutiny for the options that are available to marketers. You can see items like location, familial status, sex, and other categories that have been made available to be specifically targeted. Obviously, this is fair housing red flag for all of us in the property management sector.  The bottom line is that it is our responsibility to be in compliance with Fair Housing no matter where we are advertising. We know the law better than any digital tool that is out there. We just have to do our......
Continue reading
600 Hits
0 Comments

The Supreme Court's Ruling on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Supreme Court Ruling on sexual orientation and gender identity     In a very recent decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590, U.S. ___ (2020), (“Bostock”) the U.S. Supreme Court expanded its interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but not explicitly on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Court has determined in this decision that Title VII’s protection of employees on the basis of sex also protects employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Employment discrimination cases are filed and litigated at a much higher rate than housing cases, which is why courts often apply the legal analyses from employment cases to Fair Housing Act cases.  This decision is so important to FHI’s Community because like Title VII, the Fair Housing Act also prohibits sex discrimination. Therefore, we can confidently assume that courts in future FHA cases will also extend legal protections to individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.     The facts of this case were not disputed and involved the termination of three employees by three different employers. Two employees were fired because they are gay. The third employee was fired because she presented as a male when hired, but later informed her employer she planned to live and work as a woman. The case reached the Supreme Court due to conflicting decisions from  three Circuit Courts.  The Eleventh Circuit held that Title VII does not prohibit employers from firing employe......
Continue reading
490 Hits
0 Comments