Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
Social Media Must Comply with Fair Housing Laws
Last year, ProPublica revealed that Facebook advertisers could target housing ads to whites only. After that report, Facebook said it had built a system to spot and reject discriminatory ads. However, ProPublica recently retested and found lapses in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.
How is this relevant to property management companies?
Discrimination in advertising is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to create, publish or distribute housing ads that discriminate, limit or deny equal access to housing because of membership in any federally protected class. But “advertising” doesn’t just apply to traditional advertising, such as newspaper and Internet ads, banners and signs, and commercials. Social media communications are often considered advertisements.
Here are some tips to help ensure your employees use social media in a way that complies with fair housing law.
Train everyone in fair housing. Before being given access to your social media accounts, each person should complete fair housing training and acknowledge your company’s policies and procedures. Do the same for any agency or service that has access to your social media.
Show diversity in images. Consider all federal, state, and locally protected classes. For example, show males and females, people of different races, people with disabilities, a variety of ages, and families with and without children. Show diversity when using avatars, animated characters, and illustrations, too.
Use welcoming language. Social media messages must not position your community as more or less suitable for someone based on membership in a protected class. Avoid things like racial or ethnic terms, references to religion, exclusions based on disability, and limitations based on familial status. A good rule of thumb is to describe the community, not the people.
Designate a point person to regularly review all social media posts. Reviews should look for words or images that discriminate, limit or deny equal access to your community based on membership in any federally, state or locally protected class. Also look for posts in which prospective or current residents indicate they feel they’ve been treated unfairly, don’t feel welcome in your community, feel they are being discouraged from living in your community.
Display the Equal Housing Opportunity Logo. Always show the Equal Housing Opportunity slogan, logo or statement on your social media pages and on your website.
Make sure employees understand that it is important to be just as mindful of fair housing laws when sharing information and interacting with customers online as it is when sharing information and interacting in print and in person. The same rules apply; they are responsible for complying with anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, no matter what form of communication they are using.