Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
How Much Do Your Vendors Know About Fair Housing?
Fair housing is a topic of great importance for anyone working in the multifamily industry. In fact, it’s so important that fair housing law doesn’t just apply to your full-time employees. If a vendor or contractor working on-site is accused of discrimination, there can be serious consequences for your community, management company, and the individual accused of discrimination.
For this reason, it is important that your vendors and contractors understand and comply with fair housing law. But you can’t teach a vendor everything there is to know about fair housing law – after all, you and your employees have spent years developing your understanding of the law and how to apply it. What can you do?
Consider making sure that, at a minimum, vendors and contractors know about the following topics.
The basics of fair housing law:
- The purpose of the law and who is protected by it
- The definition of discrimination and some examples of discriminatory behavior
- The definition of harassment and some examples of harassing behavior
- What reasonable accommodations and modifications are
Their basic responsibilities:
Don’t Discriminate: Treat all residents fairly, equally, and consistently. Treating one person differently from others could lead to a discrimination complaint.
Be Professional: Maintain professionalism at all times. What seems like a funny joke to one person can be offensive or threatening to another. Something that is intended as a compliment can easily cross the line into inappropriate behavior.
Be Careful with Small Talk: It’s easy to get into fair housing trouble simply by chatting with residents. While there’s nothing wrong with being friendly, be very careful not to ask questions about any of the protected classes. In most situations, a polite smile and nod or “hello, how are you?” are sufficient.
Don’t Share Information About Residents: If someone asks you questions like, “What kind of people live here?” or “Does everyone speak English?” don’t give them specific information or invite them to walk around and see for themselves. Instead, let them know that anyone who meets the community’s qualification guidelines is welcome to live there. If pressed further, direct the individual to the leasing office.
Don’t Ask About a Disability: Never ask about a resident’s disability, whether or not they have a disability, or what work an assistance animal performs. More often than not, asking questions about a disability is a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It is best to avoid these types of questions altogether.
Most importantly, make sure vendors and contractors know that when in doubt, they should contact management with questions or concerns. This is truly a case of better safe than sorry!