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The Housing Hospital

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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 person does not have to be a citizen to be protected by the Fair Housing Act. As you review your screening policies and activities, there are some screening dos and don'ts that we'd like to offer for your consideration.

* Require accurate addresses from past living places
* Require all persons to comply with your screening process and house rules
* Fairly apply your screening process to all applicants
* Make your staff aware of any FBI warning

* Conduct criminal history screening (convictions not arrests)
* Refuse to accommodate religious beliefs that interfere with the daily
business and maintenance activities of your property
* Require valid social security numbers or federal tax identification numbers, but be flexible and permit applicants to offer adequate additional information, if an applicant is so new in the country he has not received these numbers yet
* Require proper identification that an applicant legally resides in this country

* Deny an applicant solely because of his national origin or religion
* Permit residents to harass other residents based on their religion or national origin
* Discourage applicants by stating that they will feel uncomfortable with the other residents or staff
* Refrain from reporting to the FBI or local law enforcement any applicants or residents whose behavior or information is suspicious or threatening

California Amendment

The state of California has made it illegal to make any inquiry about an applicant’s immigration or citizenship status. In addition, several other jurisdictions have or are considering making it illegal to inquire about an applicant’s immigration or citizenship status so it is critically important to be aware of the fair housing laws in your jurisdiction prior to implementing any policies

Wipe The Dust Off

In summary, this post has highlighted the need to wipe the dust off of your policies and procedures manual.  Review your screening policies.  Make sure your team is trained and mentored on the Fair Housing Act.  Provide valuable follow up training and positive reinforcement of any changes that you need to make.  Keep your team safe and compliant.

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