April traditionally focuses on Fair Housing in the real estate world but everyone should think of every month as Fair Housing Month. It affects every aspect of the property management business every day and everyone is subject to the many laws created over the years. Business owners and property managers everywhere are subject to heavy fines, penalties, loss of licensing, and more if there are violations of these laws. Too often owners/managers think their Personnel automatically understand all the complexities of Fair Housing.
The first step is never to “assume” Personnel really understand the Fair Housing laws. This applies to both licensed and unlicensed Personnel. Next, Property Management business owners/managers need to take several actions to ensure that Personnel do have the right knowledge how Fair Housing affects Property Management.
Display the Fair Housing/Equal Opportunity Prominently.
Put up the required Federal posters and any state required posters where they can be seen and make sure Personnel know their importance and what they mean.
Incorporate Fair Housing in all office manuals & documentation.
Bring Fair Housing awareness to the attention of Personnel by incorporating the state and Federal laws into all office manuals. This should be in the Policy and Procedures Manual, the Employee Manual, Owner Manual, Tenant Manual, Vendor Manual, and any other manual that is appropriate. Review all office documentation periodically looking for any wording that could create Fair Housing complaints or challenge the laws.
Have a Fair Housing Complaint process in place.
Be realistic – Fair Housing complaints are common – the public has learned how to use the legal process on this subject. Put a complaint process in place for your company and train all Personnel to initiate the process immediately if it is necessary.
Provide ALL Personnel with Fair Housing training classes.
The key here is to make it a policy to have training for ALL Personnel. There are associations and independent companies that provide classes or in-house training. Make it a yearly commitment and part of their association with your company. Your local professional association, like NARPM®, may offer fair housing classes or worships for members.
Discuss Fair Housing as it relates to the application/processing process and “unintentional comments or discussions.”
These are target areas for Fair Housing problems because of the many people involved and the very nature of these processes. Too often office Personnel can make comments or have innocent conversations that can cause liability. Business owners/property managers bear the responsibility for these situations and there is no excuse allowed for Personnel actions.
Discuss Fair Housing issues in office meetings.
If an incident does occur and/or a complaint initiated, do not bury it under the carpet. Bring it out in the open. Openly discuss the problem, corrective steps, and avoiding future complaints.
Discuss Fair Housing during Personnel reviews.
This is critical that you can show that you have grounds for dismissal or that you have worked with Personnel regarding any Fair Housing issues.
Review Fair Housing laws annually.
Again, never assume. You have worked on all documentation, provided training, and conducted open discussions. Just put it on the calendar to annually review the actual Fair Housing laws and when appropriate, introduce any new legislation that may transpire.
Remember, addressing and upholding Fair Housing means doing it 365 days a year. It is a professional property management company’s responsibility to educate personnel to avoid issues and to uphold the legal rights of tenants and prospective tenants. Personnel may not realize what they project and this video is a good example.
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.