In response to a recent post, I was asked what type of records should management keep and how should management best work to avoid fair housing complaints. In addition to assisting in preventing housing discrimination complaints, if a complaint ultimately gets filed, these items will almost always help us defend against the claims. Here are some thoughts:
(1) Engage in the “interactive process” with our residents. And document all interaction with residents. Particularly with difficult residents. Failing to do so appropriately is a common mistake I see time and time again. I am mindful it is can be a burden to do – but if you and I have to respond to a discrimination complaint, it will be time very well spent.
(2) All resident complaints should be noted in writing and a copy should be retained in the resident’s file. As a part of management’s efforts to address the situation, include copies of our responses in the files.
(3) Always respond to reasonable accommodation and/or reasonable modification requests. I usually suggest that management prepare an interim response to let the resident know we are reviewing their request. While not every request can or should be granted, each request must be evaluated and responded to.
(4) In a perfect world, reasonable accommodation and/or reasonable modification requests should be written, signed and dated by the resident. But, there is no requirement that the request be written down. Again, even with a request that comes in orally, the best practice is to document in writing what steps were taken by management to address the resident’s needs.
(5) Similarly, it is important to document all lease violations in writing in the resident’s file. You should also make sure lease violation notices/warning letters are appropriately sent all to all residents for the same violation.
(6) A full and complete rent payment history should be available for each household in their resident file (or in a computer file that can be printed) as well as a lease and any community policies you have in place.
Indeed, I know it sounds backwards. But, proving our innocence is a cost of doing business in the professional apartment management arena these days.
Just a Thought.