I wanted to address some fair housing trends with this post. For many years following passage of the the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in 1968, the most frequently filed claims concerned allegations of racial discrimination. Since I started doing this work (17 years ago), however, that has changed. Now, claims of disability discrimination make up right around 50% of the cases filed. And in addition to being the most common protected class identified in formal complaints, many informal inquiries from residents (and applicants) concern requests for reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications related to a disability. To be sure, race/national origin/color claims are in second place, with a typical percentage around 25%. Claims involving familial status are next, making up around 13% of cases, with sex and religion cases much less common.
What I have also seen over the past decade is that engaging in the interactive process with our residents can avoid the filing of a complaint altogether. Does that mean we can elimiate all FHA complaints? No, of course not. Fair housing advocacy groups will contend that many complaints are never filed because residents and applicants do not know how to exercise their rights under the law or are intimiated by the process. Professional apartment management will report that the vast majority of complaints are filed by disgruntled residents or applicants who are angry for one reason or another and file a complaint in an effort to get back at management. Where is the whole truth? Probably somewhere in the middle.
What is the best way to avoid having a complaint filed? Engage in the interactive process. Address issues in a timely manner. Document our interaction with residents and applicants. Train our leasing office staff to understand and follow the law. That way, even if you receive a complaint, I will have a file that is in excellent shape and will permit me to appropriately defend the claim.
Just A Thought.