The Fair Housing Manual is an instructional PDF document and isn’t customizable.
The Fair Housing Manual is intended to provide a guide to professional property managers to confidently manage risk and stay in compliance. This Manual covers many different aspects to how Fair Housing shows up in a property management business – from advertising a property to answering the phone and questions through to ensuring your policies and procedures are in place to protect you and your staff. Fair Housing can make or break your business and this Manual provides a basic foundation to understand what is at stake and how to take preventative measures to protect your business.
Fair Housing In The Digital Age
When the Fair Housing Act was written back in 1968, no one could go on to anticipate the impact that technology and digitization would have on advertising. Today, because of the recent digitization process, almost all advertising happens with a click of your finger online. Be it through phone applications, rental websites, realtor websites and social media pages, any kind of discrimination in the marketing message will not be tolerated.
The Fair Housing Act is clear in its description here as it states and calls it illegal “to make, print, publish or cause to be made, printed or published, any notice or statement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status.”
This description will relate to online postings and social media posts as well. If you are advertising your rental online, you should understand that excluding or including certain demographics and audiences or neighborhoods from the settings or target market of your advertisements, would be considered discriminatory and illegal.
Questions You Can’t Ask
To repeat what we have previously mentioned in this manual, there are questions you can’t ask. These include:
- Do not ask about the national origin of the tenant. Maybe they have an accent.
- Do not ask about their name. Is that an Italian name?
- Do not ask about their disabilities.
- Do not ask about children (anyone under 18 years old). An applicant can interpret this question to be discriminatory in nature against familial status.
- Don’t ask if they are married. Could be interpreted as sexual orientation discrimination.
- Don’t ask about religion. And do not come up with subtle ways of asking about it by indicating that a church, temple, or mosque is close to the rental. The applicant might assume that you only rent to people from a specific religion, and might accuse you of discrimination
We hope these tips will give you the confidence to screen and process applicants and guide you to selecting the most qualified applicant without discrimination.
Discriminatory Behavior to Avoid
Due to the protected nature of certain classes, property managers are legally restricted from taking the following actions:
- Falsely stating that a unit has already been rented to avoid renting it out to a certain individual from one of the protected classes we have mentioned above. For instance, a single mother with 3 children applies for a rental property, but the property manager does not want children living in this property so they state the property has already been rented to someone else, when in fact, that is not the case. This behavior is illegal and goes against the Fair Housing Act.
- Charging a higher amount in rent from an individual within one of the protected classes. It is illegal for property managers to quote one rental rate for a white male living alone and a different rate for a Hispanic family of 5.
- The restrictions do not just stop at the amount of the rent, but they are also in place for the lease document drafted for protected classes. Property managers should ensure that the lease document is the same for everyone regardless of their race, religion, age, sex, familial status etc. A property manager cannot and should not include discriminatory clauses in the lease document if the tenant is not in line with what they were expecting.