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Managing Racial Allegations in Online Reviews

The discourse about racism has penetrated almost every industry, and the apartment industry is no exception. Starbucks, H&M, and Roseanne Barr are among the more visible brands/personalities embroiled in these controversies in recent months. You don’t want your company or property to face the same challenges and their consequences.

Today, residents will vent their concerns online, accusing the onsite staff or management company of engaging in discriminatory behavior. A typical complaint may include feeling belittled or demeaned by a team member because of race.Following are the common racial allegations and how to deal with them.

Racial profiling

Residents criticize one or more staff members of racially profiling them. Often a resident of color shares feeling marginalized due to the tone, attitude, and/or body language of a staff member. There may be a more explicit charge of name calling or using racial slurs. Sometimes, residents express delays in service requests as a factor of their race.

Discriminatory enforcement of community policy

Residents of color, sometimes, allege that onsite staff arbitrarily enforce community policies based on race. They express that staff imposes restrictions on them and not on “white” residents. For example, smoking on premises is disregarded for certain residents while residents of color receive a violation letter. In reviews, residents have accused a manager of simply showing more courtesy and friendliness to certain people and not others – who happen to be people of color.

Neighbors are racist

Another type of racist allegation is when residents accuse their fellow neighbors of being racist. This fosters an atmosphere of distrust and uneasiness in the community.

Racial stereotypes

Some communities are unfavorably labeled as housing residents of a certain race, using terms like ghetto, refugee, or barrio. Additionally, residents appear to be biased against a staff member attributing his or her behavior to certain racial stereotypes. For instance, one reviewer described a staff member as having the “angry black woman syndrome.”

Examples of reviews alleging racial discrimination

“…I also want to add I am Mexican (&citizen) & agree there is discrimination about rules followed & if they will fix problems in your apartment.”

 “…Still, I called to make sure they were coming, and they said wait we will call you back (still waiting for the call) then I go to the office and their front desk representative is a racist, obnoxious, and the worst person to deal with. “

 “Great community for the deaf but if your hearing works - I would look elsewhere. It's pretty much on par with the ghettos in …when it comes to barking dogs, subwoofers, and cars without mufflers.”

 “They are very racist n have ALOT of racial profiling white ppl. They just went viral for letting an occupant harass the living hell out of a black family in the next breezeway from me for years!!!!”

“I believe the office staff is racist. They will say hello to everyone but me and yes, I am the only one of my race in this complex. I would not recommend this place to my worst enemy.”

 How to deal with racially charged reviews

  1.  If you receive a review with racial allegations, immediately alert your regional manager and corporate office.  
  2.  Work with your corporate office to flag the review on the respective review site. Each review site has specific content policies. A site will remove a review if it violates its content policies. For instance, when you flag a review on Google you will receive this message:
  3.  If the flagged review is not removed, respond to the review in a professional and personalized way, in sync with your company’s guidelines. In your response, encourage the reviewer to take the conversation offline.
  4.  Connect with the resident as soon as possible and work to resolve the situation to prevent any future reviews.


 An example of a response to a review accusing of racial discrimination:

 “Thank you for voicing your concerns. Please know that we strictly adhere to Fair Housing guidelines and do not condone any form of discrimination on our community premises. It is our promise to treat each resident from every walk of life with compassion and respect. We are sorry if you felt violated in any manner. As we review your feedback, we would like to learn more about your experience. Please contact us at (share email address). Thanks, in advance, for being willing to have a conversation with us. We value your feedback.”

 The chances of your property staff being accused of racism is high. Be proactive in sensitizing your team to different cultures and work with your corporate office on a plan of action, including a review response, and be ready to tackle such controversies online and offline.

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