Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
When it Comes to Fair Housing, Consistency is Key
The Fair Housing Act describes a number of illegal practices relating to housing discrimination. One of these is discrimination in terms, conditions, or privileges.
Discrimination is when a person, or a group, is treated unfairly or differently than others for a reason related to their membership in a certain category or group. In other words, if someone is treated in a different way than someone else because of the color of their skin, their age, their nationality, their ability to speak English (to name just a few) they are being discriminated against. A person does not need to be harmed to have been discriminated against—just treated differently.
Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for buying or renting housing is a little less direct than other illegal practices, such as an outright refusal to rent or sell to an individual. But it is just as illegal. Requiring higher security deposits from families with children and demanding higher application fees from minorities are examples of discrimination in terms, conditions, or privileges. These practices violate fair housing laws.
To avoid discrimination in terms, conditions or privileges, treat all prospects and residents fairly and consistently.
For example, if you are part of the leasing team:
- If you require a photo ID from prospects to tour your community, be sure to get one from every prospect. No matter how non-threatening someone appears, it is important to require the same thing from all prospects.
- If a prospect’s rental application is denied, follow-up with them both verbally and in writing. Follow this exact procedure for every application that is denied.
- If you have a prospect who does not meet your income requirements but you let her sign a lease by pre-paying six months’ rent, you should offer this option to other prospects in a similar situation.
For example, if you are part of the maintenance team:
- If you charge one resident for a lock change, you should charge all residents the same amount for the same service.
- Respond to service requests in the order in which they were received.
- Faster response to emergencies is expected, but be sure to clearly define and document what constitutes an emergency service request. Document all correspondence with residents in your records.
If you make an exception to any policy or procedure, make sure you provide the same information and options to all prospects and residents who are in the same situation.
Being consistent in how you apply policies and procedures will help you make a habit of treating all current and future residents fairly and equally. This will help you comply with the FHA, but just as importantly, it will create a more welcoming atmosphere for all people who meet your qualifications and wish to live in your community.