I do not typically use my own active cases as examples here at the Fair Housing Defense blog, but a similar issue has come up in two of them (one on the east coast and one on the west coast) that I thought merited a post. In both cases, residents have filed complaints asserting management discriminated against them on the basis of disability. Which, while unfortunate, is fine as it is a cost of doing business in our industry.
Now, leasing office staff members (as well as maintenance team members) are busy. There are days when the phone can ring off the hook. Service requests come in and need to be addressed. A pipe can burst. New applicants arrive wanting to view units. Management has to arrange for move ins and move outs (as well as turn units over). Rents need to get posted.
During all this, residents call or come to the leasing office with various requests. Or, more typically, residents send now emails. We housing management professionals need to do a better job in ensuring these emails are appropriately responded to because if they sit and a resident feels as if he or she is being ignored…that is Exhibit A in the complaint and I need to determine how best to defend against allegations that we failed to respond.
What happened in both of these circumstances is that the leasing office spoke with the resident after receiving the email. Which can be fine, but the fact that management spoke to the resident in response to their inquiry does not appear in either the resident’s paper file (old school) or in the electronic notes (new school). In both of my current cases, I am working to prove up that indeed management was responsive to a reasonable accommodation request. I suspect I will be able to get to the right result in both, but it may take some time.
Make no mistake, I am not advising you document every time you see Mr. Smith on the property and say hello. But I am suggesting that a system be put in place to ensure emails are tracked and responded to. For if they are not, you may well need to speak with a lawyer like me to defend against a discrimination complaint.
Just A Thought.