Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was a speaker at HUD’s Fair Housing Policy Conference. Her remarks covered a broad range of fair housing enforcement initiatives, but I wanted to address a few to those of us in the professional apartment management industry:
*Lynch views fair housing as much more than just access to shelter. The Attorney General takes the position that fair housing also impacts the ability to obtain employment, education, credit, transportation, health, and safety;
*Lynch noted that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed more than 100 fair housing lawsuits over the past three years, including 69 pattern or practice cases to combat discrimination;
*HUD and DOJ will absolutely continue their various fair housing tester initiatives. The Attorney General reported that DOJ has filed over 100 fair housing tester cases since 1991 and those cases have resulted in more than $13 million in damages and civil money penalties;
*Fair housing tester programs, which typically involve paired sets of individuals visiting properties posing as home seekers, will certainly continue. In addition, however, testing will now also be conducted electronically in an effort to expand the reach of enforcement;
*With the Supreme Court upholding “disparate impact” as a fair housing tool under existing law, DOJ will continue to search for and file cases challenging conduct which in their view has an unfair and/or discriminatory impact on a given local community or protected class.
What does this mean for your business or apartment community? Train your employees to follow the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Ensure your leasing office team members are aware of any state or local laws which might add to the list of protected classes contained in the federal FHA. Treat every applicant equally and evenly. Document (date and time) visits and inquiries. Note when deposits are received and when leases are signed. Develop a script and follow that script with every applicant. While we can never stop every case from being filed, management can build a record to reduce the chances your company will be named as a defendant. And if you ever are sued, we can work to ensure the file exists so a lawyer like me can help you defend against the claims.
Just A Thought.