Fair housing laws were implemented in the U.S. during the Lyndon Johnson Administration of the 1960s to help prevent discrimination towards minority and underrepresented groups in housing or renting. Some fifty years later we are still faced with it on a daily basis.
According to recent data there were close to 30,000 housing discrimination complaints filed in the U.S. in 2012, which is an increase of nearly 5% from 2011. As a property manager or a property management company it is paramount to understand these basic fundamental laws to avoid any violation and potential liability for you and the property owner.
Advertising Must Comply with Fair Housing
The following language should be communicated on all advertisements, websites, marketing materials, and communications:
“ABC Property Management and our clients do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status.”
By displaying this language you are communicating a public acknowledgement of the Fair Housing laws and the concomitant restrictions. Property managers need to be mindful not to use language which although is seemingly innocuous actually discriminates against its perceived audience.
Some examples of this are phrases like, “great for a young couple,” “family-oriented neighborhood,” or “perfect for single female.” Words which appear harmless like “safe,” and “exclusive,” also imply that the property is not available for certain groups based on stereotypes. A prudent practice for property managers and property management companies would be to describe the neighborhood, its location, and attributes of the surrounding areas instead of being exclusionary towards individuals.
Screening Policies Requires Precision in Communication
A written policy for minimal tenant standards is critical such that a bar is set and cannot be overlooked in qualifying tenants. The exact items to have in a written screening policy include employment history, present income, credit worthiness, criminal background, eviction history and any other red-flags on a screening report. This information should be communicated to the prospective tenant immediately and be front and center in a written policy such that a tenant that is denied for meritorious reasons will not be able to argue discrimination. These standards must be clear, concise, and unambiguously communicated to the potential tenants.
David currently is the broker/owner of Silicon Valley Property Management Group (SVPMG) which manages 150+ client properties on the San Francisco Peninsula.Trust, transparency, and performance guarantees are the foundation of SVPMG. David challenges anyone to find a PM company that offers services similar to the extensive education, customer service, and performance guarantees provided by SVPMG.
David also provides consulting for his clients on property development feasibility, construction, and complex real estate transactions.
David has authored a published law review article, two real estate books, and over 120 real estate blog articles.
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