When I am discussing defending fair housing cases, a question I get regularly is: “what is the most important thing management can do to prevent a fair housing case from ever being filed?” Seems simple enough.
The short answer is there is nothing that can be done to categorically ensure a fair housing complaint never gets filed. While my experience has revealed that the vast majority of complaints have no merit, nothing can be done to mathematically eliminate even the chance that a complaint gets filed against you or your employees at some point over the years.
But, the most important item management can do to significantly lower the chance of a complaint is: fully engage in the interactive process with your residents and applicants.
Respond to their questions. Document your responses. Fulfill their maintenance requests. And document those service items. Promptly acknowledge requests for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications. We cannot grant every request – but we can provide a response. Keep copies of resident complaints and concerns. And document your responses. Ensure you keep copies of lease violation notices as well as an up to date rental payment history.
At the end of the day, if a complaint comes in (and you need to talk to a lawyer like me), we will be charged with proving our innocence. That is just part of the cost of doing business in our industry. But, by engaging in the interactive process – you will have done your good faith part of attempting to prevent a complaint AND you will invaluably help me defend against it.
Just A Thought.