Here is another coming battleground for apartment management: what to do about applicants without social security numbers and/or who are undocumented?  The issue is arising because of the decision of the Supreme Court holding that “disparate impact” is a part of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).  Management is stuck in the middle because we absolutely believe it appropriate to run criminal background checks on our applicants.  And a valid social security number is an important part of that process.  While every applicant must be treated fairly, we have a similar obligation to current residents (particularly children) to do our best to ensure that sexual predators and/or other violent offenders not live in our communities.

In an effort to obtain a decision on this point, a federal lawsuit was filed earlier today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in which the plaintiffs (who are Hispanic and Latino) allege that they are being essentially evicted from their mobile home park because family members do not have a social security card or other proof of legal status. Lawyers for the plaintiffs assert that a requirement that all adults residents have a social security number, a visa (and related documents), or a passport is discriminatory because it disproportionately impacts Hispanics or Latinos.

To prove their case, lawyers for the plaintiffs will attempt to show that Latino and Hispanic residents are much more likely to be negatively impacted by a document requirement because they, as a group, are more likely not to have the paperwork. In response, I would argue that the “class” of people is not Hispanics or Latinos, but anyone (from any background) who does not have immigration documents and/or a social security card and, as such, no class of persons is disproportionally impacted.

I have not seen cases like this brought against private landlords or property owners. I know city or county ordinances mandating social security cards have absolutely been challenged.  I will keep on this, see where the case goes, and develop recommendations for professional apartment management.

Just A Thought.