Fair Housing Always remember and never forget – there is always something going on in Fair Housing and you should know what it is! Right now “disparate impact” is getting attention and for good reason. This topic is a great example of the importance of periodically reviewing your Property Management Policy and Procedures Manual to ensure that it is current.

To those of us working in the Real Estate/Property Management industry, April is generally “considered Fair Housing Month.” My mantra is “every month is Fair Housing month” but isn’t it wonderful that industry leaders devote time during April to help everyone stay on track with this important subject? It is a continual process to improve and maintain Fair Housing practices in your business.

Having a Real Estate and/or Property Management Policy and Procedures Manual is crucial for your office whether you have just one person or 100. There are many reasons to maintain this document but a key reason is reducing your liability. This is a moot point if your policy manual or other manuals are out of date. In fact, it can make your manuals downright dangerous! There is simply no reason to “allow” liability to happen.

Updating your Property Management Policy and Procedures Manual to stay current with new and changing Fair Housing laws and practices is not optional…it is critical. It just takes some organization and effort but reaps great benefits.

  • Stay current on Fair Housing legislation. The Internet is loaded with information on this subject. For instance, the HUD blog can help you learn about Fair Housing issues.
  • Review all manuals carefully regarding Fair Housing yearly, semi-yearly, or quarterly. When you think about it, there are many areas throughout your Property Management Policy and Procedures Manual that need to reflect Fair Housing – such as company policy on upholding Fair Housing, application procedures, move-in and move-out procedures, handling Fair Housing complaints, employee practices, etc.
  • Update your manuals whenever it is appropriate. When a company policy changes or new legislation occurs, do not delay in modifying your manuals and educating your team.

As I stated before, disparate impact is big Fair Housing news and affects the real estate/property management industry. Here is a definition from Wikipedia.

In United States employment law, the doctrine of disparate impact holds that employment practices may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate “adverse impact” on members of a minority group. Under the doctrine, a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be proven by showing that an employment practice or policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of the protected class as compared with non-members of the protected class.

The doctrine entails that “a facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect.” Where a disparate impact is shown, the plaintiff can prevail without the necessity of showing intentional discrimination unless the defendant employer demonstrates that the practice or policy in question has a demonstrable relationship to the requirements of the job in question.

Disparate impact contrasts with disparate treatment. A disparate impact is unintentional, whereas a disparate treatment is an intentional decision to treat people differently based on their race or other protected characteristics.

Previously, disparate impact was primarily focused on employment practices. Now it has definitely moved into the real estate/property management arena, particularly concerning credit reporting companies and use of criminal background checks for tenant screening. This has led to the HUD Disparate Impact Rule. Additional legislation on this subject is popping up on the state level as well; an example is the new legislation in Washington State and in time will continue to show up in other state legislatures.

Reviewing disparate impact in detail is not my intent at this time and is far too lengthy a subject for this article; if this is new to you or you need to update on other Fair Housing issues, use the links in this article to learn more. Review your credit reporting company for their practices as well – this is really important to meeting compliance with the HUD Disparate Impact Rule. Knowledge is a powerful thing and will help you update your office manuals and business practices to protect yourself and your company.

Remember – LandlordSource offers many of the tools you need for establishing your policies– you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Have a great day in Real Estate/Property Management.

Jean Storms - Owner and Author of LandlordSource ProductsJean 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.