A Fair Housing Defense blog reader sent in a question concerning the number of housing discrimination cases filed and if there was a breakdown with respect to those filed against management as contrasted with those filed against maintenance personnel. To my knowledge, while HUD absolutely tracks the annual number of cases filed and further breaks down the complaints by the protected class of the person bringing the action, I am not aware of any data concerning claims filed against service personnel as compared to those who work in the leasing office. In my experience, while it is the conduct of leasing office personnel which make up a significant majority of the complaints, I have any number of cases in which a service team member is asserted to have either done something (or not done something) in a discriminatory manner.
Remember, many times it is HUD (or a state, city, or county agency or even a local fair housing advocacy group) who works with a potential complainant and it is the agency who actually identifies those to be named as Respondents. Sometimes it is just the ownership entity. Sometimes it is the management company. Sometimes it is the apartment community. Sometimes it is individuals who are named – a community manager, a regional manager, a leasing office associate, a service manager, and/or even the company’s president who are joined along with the entity.
Now, make no mistake, as a best practice – ownership/management should absolutely train both our leasing office staff as well as our maintenance employees in fair housing and we should update that training at least annually. Remember, all of our leasing office and service teams interact with residents. And both can cause liability if we do not do it right.
So, remember to train both your leasing office and service team members. The actions of any employee can cause fair housing liability. Saying “my service technician did not know the law” will not work as a defense in a fair housing case. Trust me.
Hope that helps. Thanks for the question.
Just A Thought.