Under the federal Fair Housing Act (as well as state, city, and county codes) it is against the law to discourage any person from viewing and/or renting a unit because that person belongs to a protected class or to assign any person to a particular section of an apartment community or to a specific floor in a building because of his/her status as a member of a protected class. This type of conduct are examples of what is known in the fair housing arena as “steering.”
Even something which may have been said in an effort to be helpful and which could be perceived as benign – such as suggesting that a families with children live on one side of a complex because of potential noise or suggesting that an applicant might not want to live on a certain floor in an apartment building – can (and may well) be taken as unlawful steering. I can all but guarantee that a fair housing tester will conclude you are steering if leasing office staff make any comments which could be taken as directing applicants to certain units or areas.
What is the best defense to avoid a steering claim? When advertising or showing apartments, ensure that the applicant makes the choice of the available units that he/she qualifies to rent under your non-discriminatory selection criteria. As a matter of practice, never give management’s perspective on what apartment might be “better” for a given applicant. For if you do, you might need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.