Many people put together a policy manual for their property management business but forget to review this important document to see if it includes Fair Housing. Make it a challenge to go through your policy manual to see if it does meet Fair Housing standards. Fair Housing is the highest standard there is for Property Managers and proudly upheld. One of the first things HUD may ask to see is your policy manual if there is a Fair Housing complaint. Don’t let your Policy Manual be a liability.
Include a General Fair Housing Policy
Do you have a general Fair Housing Policy in your company manual? To start, it can be a very simple but effective statement.
(Company) follows all federal and state Fair Housing laws and guidelines. Fair Housing affects all areas of the real estate/property management industry. There is a separate section on Fair Housing polices to follow in this manual and many cross-references throughout this manual.
It is also useful to include specific Fair Housing Laws. Three very important acts of legislation to mention are
- The Title VIII of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended in 1988 and
- The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1870, 42 U.S.C. Sections 1981, 1982
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
These laws are the backbone of today’s Fair Housing laws. If your state has additional Fair Housing Laws, include them as well. This will also help your Personnel understand what they should be practicing.
Fair Housing Section
If you have a specific Fair Housing section in your manual, make sure that it includes the very basis of Fair Housing.
(Company) will not tolerate any Fair Housing violations of any kind and does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap/disability, or national origin. Some states also include familial status or other areas. If appropriate, add wording to contain your state law requirements. The Internet can be a useful tool to search out federal or state laws.
Here are other inclusions to consider – as long as you actually do them.
- Displaying the Equal Opportunity Sign in the office – a federal requirement
- Requiring all Personnel to abide by the Fair Housing laws
- Requiring all Personnel to report violations of Fair Housing immediately
- Participation in providing Fair Housing education for Personnel
- Providing a Fair Housing complaint process
It is just important NOT to include something if it is not true. For example, if you do not provide any education for Personnel regarding Fair Housing, leave this out. Remember, your policy manual is a reflection of your business and could become involved in a lawsuit or Fair Housing complaint. You want it to be as accurate as possible.
Review Your Basic Procedures
In your daily operation, are the procedures outlined in your manual complying fully with Fair Housing? Look at your manual critically to see if this is what your company is doing every day. There are a lot of areas for potential lawsuits. If they need updating or even removal, do it as soon as possible.
- Advertising – publications, Internet, email
- Steering or redlining
- Property showings
- Application process
- Treatment of handicapped persons
- Refusal to work with discriminatory property owners
- Tenant problems or disputes
Fair Housing Policies and Personnel
After your take the time to review and possibly update your Policy and Procedures Manual for Fair Housing issues, it is very important that you have your Personnel review the updates as well. They are your representatives but the ultimate liability and responsibility is that of the company. It will not help to update your policy manual and not inform anyone. Have an office meeting to discuss any changes.
Keep the “Fair” in Fair Housing in your company documents and practices at all times, particularly your company Manuals.
The examples and information in this article are from the current version of the LandlordSource Policy and Procedures Manual, written by Jean Storms, MPM®.
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.