For those of us in the apartment ownership and management business, fair housing compliance is a part of our business.  The Fair Housing Act (FHA) has been on the books for over 40 years now and there also also various state, city, and county anti-discrimination laws we must follow.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tracks the number of fair housing cases filed annually.  Here are some sobering statistics:

Year        Number of Complaints

1998        5,818

1999        6,140

2000        6,970

2001        6,973

2002        7,557

2003        8,097

2004        9,187

2005        9,254

2006        10,328

2007        10,154

2008        10,552

2009        10,242

In other words, fair housing enforcement is not going away.  In addition to a sustained increase in the number of complaints, the type of complaint has changed as well.  Historically, race and color made up the highest percentage of filed discrimination complaints.  Over the past few years, that has changed.  Now, disability discrimination make up the largest number.  I saw some recent statistics noting that 44 percent of filed complaints are related to disability, 31 concern race and about 20 percent are based on familial status.  Those numbers are consistent with what I have seen in my practice.

The best way to reduce the chances of a complaint being filed against you or your property is to ensure you engage in the interactive process with residents and applicants.  Remember, our goal is to get people into our communities and to have those residents renew their leases.  I have seen complaint after complaint filed by a disgruntled person which could have been avoided had management been proactive in dealing with them.  To be sure, there are some residents or applicants who cannot be satisfied and then we get to defend against a complaint. 

Another critical element to prevent fair housing complaints is updated fair housing training.  Management needs to ensure our leasing and maintenance staff members get it right.  Part of the way to best assist them is good training.   By a lawyer experienced in the field.

Just A Thought.