“I have a dream…” the immortal words of a speech that spurred the ongoing movement against racism and slavery almost 55 years ago.
Today, we continue to come across instances where people of color are facing obstacles they shouldn’t. Incidents where stereotypical moments lead to violence and tragedies come across our newsfeed even in this day and age.
This stereotypical mindset has entered the Property Management arena as well and adversely impacts tenants of color.
Here are 5 simple ways you can adhere to the Fair Housing Act, avoiding disparate impact:
1. Equal Treatment
Have a standardized process for all your tenants including a Criteria Form as part of your application.
Have your application and lease reviewed by an attorney to make sure you aren’t asking questions that could impact one group over another. Applications often have a question about disclosing if they have ever been convicted of a crime or have a felony on their record.
Minority groups statistically have higher rates of convictions thus making it difficult for them to find housing once their time is served.
Fair Housing requires us to treat all applicants equally. This will lead to a larger, more diverse tenant base.
2. Due Diligence
Due diligence is part of the screening process. A credit check is performed to make sure the applicant meets the credit requirements and has no unlawful detainers. Landlord references as well as employment verification is part of the process. However, some companies also run a criminal background check. This is a slippery slope since if a conviction shows up but the applicant has been a model citizen since and they meet all other criteria will they be denied because of this information? As emphasized earlier, conduct background checks for all tenants or none at all.
3. Do not hesitate to communicate
It is important to follow up with applicants if something negative is reflected on their credit reports. The credit bureaus are happy to put things on the report and are notorious for being slow to remove errors. I know of an attorney who had a tax lien show up on his credit report which was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead of denying him outright a phone call clarifying the information resulted in the attorney showing us proof that the lien had been paid and the information should have been removed years ago. Always, ask for clarification.
4. Language matters
Make sure you address your potential tenants with respect and always remain professional. Even a friendly comment such as, “your name is beautiful what nationality is it?” could lead someone to say you discriminated against them based upon race if they are denied the property. Keep to the facts even if it feels impersonal. What you consider friendly conversation could be interpreted another way by someone else.
5. Let your actions do the talking
If you follow Fair Housing and have processes and policies in place that reinforce Fair Housing laws and guidelines you will not only have qualified tenants but happy ones too. Everyone wants to be treated fairly so it is imperative that employees are trained and know how to respond professionally to prospect questions. The biggest compliment you can have is when a prospect gets the same answer from everyone in the office and they comment that you all sound like robots. The intent isn’t to sound like a robot but the intent is to be consistent in following Fair Housing Laws and treating everyone the same. There are no exceptions to the rule or the law and in some cases that might make some applicants unhappy that you can’t make an exception for them for their personal situation. Again, it is about treating everyone the same and equally.
Kathleen Richards, is the owner of LandlordSource and The Property Management Coach. With her 12 years as a broker/owner of a property management company she speaks from experience. She authored Property Management A-Z and teaches regularly at community colleges and conferences on property management topics. She is active in her field and holds professional designations as Master Property Manager (MPM®) and Residential Management Professional (RMP®) from NARPM®. Kathleen has served at the local and state level on the boards for NARPM® (National Association of Residential Property Managers).
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.