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For A Fair Housing Defense Proper Documentation Is A Must

For A Fair Housing Defense Proper Documentation Is A Must
Proper documentation can help you defend against an allegation of housing discrimination.  It's pretty safe to say that all property management companies would like to avoid a lawsuit for a Fair Housing violation if at all possible. Document Document Document We always recommend for housing providers to "document, document, and document." It is important to also understand what kind of information to include in your documentation of a particular situation so that if necessary it will serve your interests at a future time. Because we have encountered many documents of housing providers that were not as useful as they could have been, we have some recommendations for you of the kinds of information to always include. Just like party invitations your documents need to contain who, where, when, and why. It is also useful to include any other staff person or resident who was present or has knowledge of the situation. Company Forms Many companies use specific forms to document situations and complaints. Using these forms is often preferable over merely writing a narrative because often the forms prompt the employee to include all relevant and important information. If you don't use forms, it may be worthwhile to develop several for your own use. Try to describe as thoroughly and accurately as possible what was said and how it was said. For example, it is much more descriptive to state "the resident stormed into my office, shouting in a loud voice, using expletives and vulgar language" than to state "the resident......
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Jamie Wohlschlegel
Great article Doug!
Friday, 07 September 2018 09:41
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Property Management Must Act On Sexual Harassment Allegations

Property Management Must Act On Sexual Harassment Allegations
Sexual Harassment Allegations Sexual harassment allegations are a serious matter.  The Baltimore sex-for-repairs $8 million settlement is still fairly fresh on property management companies minds.  Even more recently Uber has hit the media as another high profile company who allegedly has ignored sexual harassment in the workplace.  Obviously becoming a high profile case is the last thing a property management company wants.  This post will remind you of the absolute necessity to have policies and protocols to protect your employees and your residents. Too Friendly? It is not uncommon for sexual harassment allegations to arise within fair housing complaints. While the actions of this company referenced above appear to be egregious and extreme, even less serious actions can result in allegations of sexual harassment. For example, a maintenance employee of an apartment community commented upon the beauty of a single female resident and her young daughter. The resident reported the incident to the property manager, complaining that the maintenance employee was being overly friendly because he was trying to "hit on" her. Although the maintenance employee's comments probably would not ultimately be enough to make a case for sexual harassment, all employees should be cautioned against making remarks to applicants or residents that could be offensive sexually. Since it is difficult to determine what another person might find offensive, employees should simply refrain from overly familiar or personal comments to applicants or residents. In order to hold management responsible for sexual harassment allegations, the person being harassed must prove that management......
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Terrorism Concerns and Managing Screening Policies

Terrorism Concerns and Managing Screening Policies
When was the last time you reviewed your screening policies? Prevent illegal discrimination in screening applicants by developing and practicing consistent policies.  Terrorism concerns are relevant and need to be addressed in a proactive way and not reactive.  Your team needs to be properly trained on Fair Housing compliance and also on how to properly apply any procedures and policies that you may implement. Reviewing Screening Policies In response to the concerns about terrorism, many property owners and managers are reviewing their screening procedures and policies in an effort to make those procedures as useful as possible in identifying potential problem applicants so that whenever possible those applicants will not become residents. Of course, any time a policy results in some applicants being rejected, it is important to ensure that the policy is carefully developed and fairly applied to avoid an appearance that one or more protected groups are being discriminated against. National Origin and Religion The federal Fair Housing Act requires that persons not be discriminated against on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. The fact that some terrorists are of an identifiable national origin and religion has resulted in blatant discrimination against persons of many Asian and Middle Eastern origins and several religions including persons of the Muslim faith who are not violent fundamentalists. It is obvious that asking a person to move merely because he is from Saudi Arabia is illegal housing discrimination. It is important to remember that a......
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Compliance Guidelines For Fair Housing Advertising

Compliance Guidelines For Fair Housing Advertising
Fair Housing advertising issues and violations are more common than you may think.  HUD provides advertising guidelines for compliance which this article covers. In case you're asking yourself why you should read this particular article, the fact is that if you work in the housing industry, you need to know your responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act, because regardless of your position, you are probably "advertising" every day.  Fair Housing advertising involves every member of your team. Fair Housing Advertising Mediums Advertising under the Fair Housing Act doesn't just mean ads in newspapers. The law says you can't "make, print, or publish. . . any notice, statement, or advertisement . . . that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a person's race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin." That includes such things as applications, flyers, brochures, deeds, signs, banners, posters, billboards, and even pictures in your office. It also means that the things you say about your property in writing, over the phone or in person are covered. Expressing an illegal preference or limitation to one of your fellow agents, brokers, employees, prospective sellers, renters, or to any other person in connection with the sale or rental of your property is illegal. Here are two examples of illegal advertising that you may not have realized were violations of the Fair Housing Act. A maintenance man tells a passer-by that "only real Americans" lived in the apartment complex where he worked. A rental office is decorated with......
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Felicia Norman
So, does this apply to "retirement communities" such as condos where no one under the age of 16 is permitted to live?
Friday, 16 March 2018 15:26
aptdoctor
Senior living communities (HOPA 55 and over or 62 and over) can specify that no children are permitted if that is their policy.
Sunday, 18 March 2018 19:38
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Reasonable Accommodation - Accommodating Residents With Allergies

Reasonable Accommodation - Accommodating Residents With Allergies
A reasonable accommodation by definition is an adjustment made in a system to accommodate or make fair the same system for an individual based on a proven need.  That is a solid definition coming from Wikipedia. Reasonable Accommodation - Resident Allergies The focus of this article will be on working with a resident who notifies management of allergies that they deal with. It can be difficult for management to provide reasonable accommodations to residents with allergies.  What can you do? What are some best practices? As many of you have experienced, it appears that the occurrences of residents with severe allergies, asthma, and multiple chemical sensitivity are increasing. These types of situations can create difficult problems for management attempting to meet the needs of the residents. They want to provide reasonable accommodations, while also not limiting the use of chemicals and products by other residents and staff. As an example, let's review the situation of Mike Jones, a resident of Happy Village. Mike has allergies to fresh paint and he has requested that no new paint be applied anywhere inside his building. The first issue is whether Mike is disabled and therefore entitled to a reasonable accommodation. Is The Allergy A Disability Or Not? The Fair Housing Act defines a disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If Mike's symptoms are minimal, arguably he's not substantially limited by his allergies, and thus not disabled. For most of us with allergies, while the......
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Fair Housing from A to Z

We are taking the alphabet, letter by letter, so perhaps you can do things a little bit better To make your community open to all, and not take an unexpected fair housing fall! And, because Fair Housing covers a lot, we’ve created a resource to print out on the spot!     A is for Animals, and you can say no To my dog, cat, or birdie, unless I can show That this critter is truly needed by me To manage better with my disability. Then dog, cat or birdie is not a pet, So accepting my assistance animal is a wise bet.   B is for Boa, as in the large snake, So that you understand that you might have to take, This reptile, or the monkey or even the horse (The latter is a miniature one, of course), Because these can be assistance animals, too. And when appropriate they move in with you.   C is for Children, they will live with you, Unless your residents are older – 55 to 62. Be careful how you restrict them with your community rules, Since perhaps except for your gyms, your spas and your pools, Your policies should reflect the behaviors you desire, From both the young and those with ages much higher.   D is for Damages, and oh, what the cost, If yours is the legal position that’s lost. From punitive damages to penalties civil, The amount you might pay could make you snivel. Communities have lost millions in some of their cases, Where fair housing violations have been the basis.   E is for Everyone, the messa......
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April Focus on Fair Housing, Fair Isaac and Financial Inclusion

April Focus on Fair Housing, Fair Isaac and Financial Inclusion
April is Financial Inclusion Month. It’s also Fair Housing Month. These two occasions cross paths when we consider that 138 million Americans are struggling with their financial health, and only 6 out of 10 (59 percent) households would have enough liquid savings to pay an unexpected $2,000 expense, according to reports by the Center Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) that also highlight in the event of immediate need that credit is not a viable option for more than 108 million Americans who lack traditional credit cards and even modern online lending. Fair Isaac, the company that in 1956 created the FICO credit scoring software that’s still in use today as a measure of consumer credit risk, is a tie that binds Fair Housing and the oh so difficult goal of financial inclusion when we look to the cash challenges consumers face when their credit score is less than perfect, and below the minimum requirement to secure a lease for rental housing. A quick synopsis: The Fair Housing Act was originally passed in the late 1960s through the urging of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) following passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1968. Its primary purpose was to eliminate discrimination between buyer and seller, landlord and tenant, making it unlawful to refuse to sell or rent to an individual base on race. The law has been amended in years since with additional limitations on discrimination based, most notably, on personal handicaps with the passage of the Americans with Dis......
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HUD Bans Using Arrest Records

HUD Bans Using Arrest Records

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance on April 4th, 2016 that is going to require all single-family and multifamily rental professionals to revisit their policies.

In a decision that is aimed at protecting the rights of “returning citizens”, HUD is limiting the use of arrest records in tenant screening nationwide for both public and private housing. While they are not discouraging the use of criminal records in the background screening process, they are requiring a conviction be reported for the record to be considered in the decision. Using an arrest record without a conviction is being viewed as discriminating against a consumer who has not been found guilty of having done anything illegal.

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Guest — Robert Garrard
So a wholesale pattern of being arrested doesnt matter? Well HUD! at least give current & other future,the generally law-abid... Read More
Monday, 11 April 2016 14:21
Guest — Robert Garrard
ONLY the article.
Monday, 11 April 2016 14:22
Penny King
Thanks for the information. Looking at our Rental Policies right now to make sure we are in compliance. Although it does sound li... Read More
Tuesday, 12 April 2016 15:00
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Communicating with People with Disabilities

Communicating with People with Disabilities
Consider this scenario: Your new co-worker, Bob, uses a wheelchair. You don’t want to intrude into Bob’s private life, but at the same time, you may wonder if he needs special accommodations or if there are things he can’t do. Are you comfortable having a conversation with Bob about his disability? For many people without disabilities, it’s an uncomfortable topic. You don’t want to offend anyone. You definitely don't want to find yourself outside of fair housing compliance. You’re not exactly sure what words to use. You not even sure Bob wants to acknowledge his situation. So, what should you do? The 2010 Census estimated that 19% of the U.S. population has a disability. People can be born with a disability, or it can occur later in life due to an illness or accident. Disabilities are a medical diagnosis, not a label or stereotype. As a team member in your community, you should know that discriminating against persons with disabilities—be it an employee, resident, or a random stranger—is also illegal under federal laws.  The old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names/words will never hurt me” isn’t true. Words can affect the way we see others and the way they see themselves. Words perpetuate stereotypes that victimize or bully others. If you only know Bob as “the guy in the wheelchair,” you may never learn that Bob is a skilled woodworker, father of twin boys, and an all-star basketball player. By using people first language—that is, choosing words that put the person before their disabil......
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No Crystal Ball: Disparate Impact Is Not Crystal Clear

  The National Apartment Association recently provided an excellent webinar titled “Fair Housing Disparate Impact:  Learn How the Supreme Court’s Decision Affects You”.  The two attorneys who presented (Harry Kelly from Nixon Peabody LLP and Mike Skojec from Ballard Spahr LLP) wrestled well with the topic of this relevant decision (that disparate impact is a facet of fair housing law) while at the same time making it clear that what this means and how it will impact our multifamily housing industry is not clear at all.  The webinar covered weighty topics that I will not even begin to try and explain (such as the dilemma of revitalization/ affordable housing – damned if you do, damned if you don’t; pending decisions that will interpret the Supreme Court decision; shifting burdens of proof; whether the HUD Rule on disparate impact is consistent with the ruling).  It is clear to me that these issues are way above my pay scale.   Where I found the webinar to be particularly helpful was in identifying where some real world issues may arise and how to prepare for them.  While no one professes to have a crystal ball, I will (with great appreciation to these to lawyers for their insight) share what I learned.    Examples of anticipated future kinds of challenges:   Drug/crime screening policies Rental decisions based on source or type of income/income multipliers (such as requiring income that is 2 times or 3 times the rent) Credit Screening “House rules”  (such as those affecting families) I ......
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Ryan Green
Very well put Nadeen. I like your list of questions to ask in order to determine what policies are truly essential. We have been... Read More
Tuesday, 18 August 2015 10:02
Guest — Nadeen
Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Ryan (whom I will point out is no relation!). The one point you made that I want to cl... Read More
Tuesday, 18 August 2015 12:04
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