Reopening Multifamily Part 3: Resuming Amenity & Maintenance Services

Another Timely and Actionable Report: May COVID-19 Resident Sentiment Survey – Issue 2

To help multifamily companies balance safety, resident satisfaction, company viability, and legal compliance as they begin to reopen communities, Grace Hill has launched a series of articles and tools that support the reopening response. Part one of the series introduces strategies for reducing liability risk. Part two of the series discusses establishing new leasing practices.To help multifamily companies balance safety, resident satisfaction, company viability, and legal compliance as they begin to reopen communities, Grace Hill has launched a series of articles and tools that support the reopening response. Part one of the series introduces strategies for reducing liability risk. Part two of the series discusses establishing new leasing practices.

NAA Mini-Webinar: Amenity AwarenessReopening Multifamily Part 3: Resuming Amenity & Maintenance Services

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Series Part 1 – Reducing Liability Risk

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Series Part 2 – Establishing New Leasing Practices

Reopening creates potential liability for multifamily companies on numerous fronts, including the risk of workers’ compensation claims from infected employees, liability claims from infected residents, and discrimination or invasion of privacy claims due to actions taken to mitigate risk.
The financial impact of any one of these could be significant, so understanding the legal implications should be the first step to establishing reopening policy.

Survey your residents to assess effectiveness

While our latest Resident Sentiment Report gives you a good picture of the market overall, surveying your specific residents will help you assess how effective your reopening policies are being implemented and communicated at your specific communities. Surveying can help you reduce liability by getting an accurate read on your residents’:

  • Feeling of safety at their community
  • Understanding of and comfort level with reopening practices
  • Satisfaction with community response, including communication strategy

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Series

Multifamily companies across the country are working to implement new policies and practices that will help keep communities safe and compliant with local guidelines and regulations while allowing for freer movement within the community. Just as the onset of COVID-19 did, the reopening phase presents new challenges companies must navigate in the interest of preserving safety, resident satisfaction, company viability, and legal compliance all at the same time. 

 

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Series

 

To help companies balance these, at times competing, objectives, Grace Hill is launching a new series of free articles and tools that support the multifamily reopening response. We’ll address some of the biggest challenges we’re hearing from on-the-ground operations leaders, like:

  • How do we balance company-wide policy with regional variations in legal guidelines?
  • How can we reduce our liability risk?
  • What new policies and technology are needed to accommodate new leasing practices?
  • How should we resume maintenance and amenity services?
  • What do we need to keep in mind when establishing rent collection and eviction practices moving forward?
  • How do we support our on-site teams with the information and skills they need to perform safely in a reopened community? 

 

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Workbook

 

One of the tools we’ve created to support your reopening efforts is the Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Workbook. This workbook will help you streamline strategic planning so you can better apply appropriate legal guidance for individual communities. Use this workbook to keep track of operational decisions and identify where new communication, technology, policies, and training are needed.

 

Part 1: Reducing Liability Risk While When Reopening

 

Reopening creates potential liability for multifamily companies on numerous fronts, including the risk of workers’ compensation claims from infected employees, liability claims from infected residents, and discrimination or invasion of privacy claims due to actions taken to mitigate risk. 

The financial impact of any one of these could be significant, so understanding the legal implications should be the first step to establishing reopening policy. 

 

Consult a local attorney for each state you operate in 

Just as pandemic guidance and regulations vary greatly depending on where a property is located, so does liability. For example, some states’ workers’ comp systems have severe limits on the remedies that can be sought by an injured (or infected) worker, while others do not. Getting a thorough sense of the liability your company faces for any property will help you determine how aggressive or conservative your reopening policies should be.  

 

Know your insurance policies 

Do not assume you know what your policy covers and what it excludes. Many general liability insurance policies contain exclusions for liabilities related to infectious diseases, for example.

 

Develop, document, and enforce a plan to mitigate risk

While it will not waive your liability, having a documented policy for mitigating risk and demonstrating that you made every effort to enforce that policy, including training staff, could provide a legal defense in the case of a claim. 

 

The information you get from federal, state, and local authorities should inform every aspect of your reopening strategy.

 

Follow the Series

Stay tuned for our next installment, Reopening Multifamily: Establishing New Leasing Practices.

 

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Series Part 2 – Establishing New Leasing Practices

Reopening Multifamily: Strategic Response Series Part 1 – Reducing Liability Risk

Assessing New Leasing Practices

Surveys and mystery shopping can help ensure a “yes” answer to the critical questions above. Virtual leasing provides an oversight challenge, especially with so many employees working remotely. Having virtual presentations mystery shopped will allow you to gain insight into whether residents are getting the experience you want them to have, and surveys will help you determine resident comfort and satisfaction with that experience.

Part 2 – Establishing New Leasing Practices

To help multifamily companies balance safety, resident satisfaction, company viability, and legal compliance as they begin to reopen communities, Grace Hill has launched a series of articles and tools that support the reopening response. Part one of the series introduced strategies for reducing liability risk. These strategies should be used to develop all reopening policies and practices.

Is Your Organization Secure When It Comes To Fair Housing?

 Stay Fair Housing Compliant with Grace Hill’s Checklist

You may not have experienced a conflict with Fair Housing compliance yet, but multifamily companies are vulnerable to such lawsuits from many fronts, and violations can be costly. 

 

For example, in April 2019 HUD reported that civil penalties for Fair Housing violations may be levied up to $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for future violations. Areas that leave organizations at risk include: 

  • Untrained employees
  • Outdated legal knowledge
  • Inadequate policies
  • Changing rules and legislation

 

If you’re unsure whether your organization is currently covering all the bases to avoid a Fair Housing violation, Grace Hill has a Checklist for Decreasing Fair Housing Compliance Risk just for you. 

 

Critical Fair Housing Practices

To help you determine areas of fair housing compliance that may need to be strengthened at your organization, the checklist includes:

 

  • Nuisance abatement policy and other necessary FHA compliance reminders
  • Identifying behaviors and language that may indicate discriminatory treatment
  • Keeping your sexual harassment policies up to date
  • Guidelines for religious meetings and assistance animals
  • Policies around families and children

 

There may be more examples of fair housing compliance violations than you and your staff are even aware of, so equip yourself today!

 

Why Grace Hill?

Grace Hill gives our clients tools to manage risk on every front. We provide you with comprehensive support that suits all your learning management needs, including mini-courses, free webinars, policy upkeep, and assessment methods for determining the efficacy of your training. Grace Hill continually provides across-the-board compliance support more than any other multifamily training company. 

 

Download the Checklist for Decreasing Fair Housing Compliance Risk for support in keeping track of the many important components your policies and training should include in order to minimize risk and provide a safe, fair, and positive environment for all. 

Ensure Your Sexual Harassment Policy is in Compliance

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, federal and state governments are rapidly taking increased action to crack down on sexual harassment in housing and employment. Multifamily companies may be at risk for non-compliance with new anti-harassment legislation if they aren’t keeping up with new rules and regulations. There’s never been a more important time to ensure your company is taking all the necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment. 

We at Grace Hill are dedicated to ensuring our training courses are all up to date and in line with these changes and will continue to keep pace with them to ensure you and your organization are equipped to prevent (and report) sexual harassment as necessary. As one step, we have compiled a Guide to Reducing Sexual Harassment Risk in order to clarify some points of confusion over sexual harassment policy and to help you assess your own policy and training for areas that may need to be strengthened. 

For example, do you and members of your team know: 

  • Sexual harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual desire in order to violate the Fair Housing Act?
  • The company employing a person accused of harassment could be found liable for failure to adequately address the allegations?
  • That there are many forms of sexual harassment, beyond the overt offenses you may already be thinking of?

Use Grace Hill’s free Essential Guide to Reducing Sexual Harassment Risk as the first step to understanding these questions and protecting your organization. Inside we clarify common myths, offer prevention tips, and provide a checklist for sexual harassment policy and training. This foundational guide will help you assess the strength of your sexual harassment prevention program so you can lower your organization’s risk. 

We want to help you identify state and national laws around harassment, find multiple channels for both employee and resident reporting, and develop methods for frequent managerial training. Download the Essential Guide to Reducing Sexual Harassment Risk to begin protecting your organization, as well as its valued employees and residents. 

Download the Grace Hill Essential Guide to Reducing Sexual Harassment Risk today!

Recent Discrimination Rulings That Could Put You at Risk of FHA violations

The civil penalty for a first-time FHA violation is $19,787.

Cases involving FHA violation can be costly and time-consuming. Add to that, it can be challenging to keep up with ever-changing compliance regulations and relevant court rulings, but doing so is necessary in order to avoid making costly mistakes. Fortunately, Grace Hill works closely with Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd P.A. (HSB) to monitor emerging compliance topics for multifamily property managers. Here are two recent rulings with big implications for property managers.

 

 

Gender Identity and/or Sexual Orientation Discrimination

 

The US District Court in Colorado recently determined that discrimination against applicants based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation constitutes discrimination under the FHA.

 

The Court heard a case where a family made up of two married lesbian women, one of whom is transgender, and two children was denied housing at a rental property. The family was denied as applicants for the townhouse because of their “unique relationship” and because, according to the landlord, they have “kept a low profile” and “want to continue it” that way.

 

The court ruled in favor of the couple, finding that denial of their application based on failure to conform to gender stereotypes constituted discrimination based on gender under the FHA. However, the court declined to specifically find that discrimination based on gender identity is sex discrimination under the FHA, mainly due to procedural reasons.

 

How to Protect Your Property

 

Make sure written policies advise employees not to treat applicants or tenants any differently based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

 

Train all employees, particularly leasing agents, how to avoid discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation. This includes educating them on potential scenarios in which they might discriminate unknowingly.

 

Prohibiting Children is Discriminating Against Families  

 

The FHA makes it unlawful to discriminate against families with children, including denying or limiting housing to families because they have children under the age of 18, making discriminatory statements, and imposing rules or policies that discriminate against families with children.

 

In a recent case, a property company in Kansas terminated a resident’s lease when she asked if her grandchild, whom she had recently obtained custody of, could be added to the lease. The property manager allegedly told the resident that the owner “doesn’t want kids on the property.”

 

The outcome of the case was that HUD charged the property owners, operator, and office manager with violating the FHA.

 

How to Protect Your Property

 

State in written policies that it is not possible to lawfully ensure a child-free property and that employees should not, through action or comment, convey the desire for one.

 

Inform all employees of the above facts and train them to avoid imposing any limitations on children in their leasing procedures as well as in any behavioral regulations they impose on tenants.

 

Want More?

 

We share the most relevant compliance updates with Platinum customers each month in The Vantage Pro and quarterly for all Vision customers in The Vantage. We also incorporate that information into our courseware regularly, so your people and teams are always being trained on the latest, emerging compliance topics. Schedule a demo to learn more.