Apartment Living BlogFair Housing › Are Fair Housing Issues Still a Big Deal?

Dear Fair Housing Lady,

I read your blog pretty faithfully and usually learn something. I’ve been in the apartment business for a long time, and am wondering if fair housing issues really are that big of a deal these days. I know there are “big” topics, such as disparate impact, but I am talking about the day-to-day interactions between landlords and prospects, applicants and residents.  Surely everyone has wised up and is getting it right these days…aren’t they?

Sincerely,

Wondering in Waco

Dear Wondering,

It makes me happy to know that I have a faithful reader (thank you for that!) and that you usually learn something (although my goal would be to have you learn something each time you visit my blog). Remember that confirming that what you are doing is likely fair housing compliant can be a learning experience, too…validation is a good thing!

Now, to your question as to the overall wisdom of your industry colleagues. I have been teaching fair housing for 28 years and can attest that folks in this business have become much more informed, educated, astute and professional.  So yes, in my world of fair housing, I see the collective wisdom of today. But nonetheless, there are those out there that, either through bigotry or ignorance, do not do it right…and those lapses are great, and for you and me, hard to fathom.  Here are two recent examples…

  • Four different communities under the same owner/management in Utah paid $45,000 to settle a case involving assistance animals.  The issue was not that residents had disabilities; rather the allegation was that those residents were required to have a healthcare provider complete a “prescription form.” That form suggested that the healthcare provider may be held responsible for any property damage or physical injury caused by the requested assistance animal.  And supposedly, residents without disabilities did not have to have any third-party assume liability for their pets. That $45,000 included $20,000 to a mom and her little boy, just seven years old and with autism, who were not allowed to keep his assistance animal because the little boy’s doctor would not agree to assume liability for any possible damage caused by that animal. The other $25,000 goes into a fund to compensate others who may have been harmed by this policy.
    • In Colorado, there was a $70,000 settlement whereby the community was accused of having a “no kids” policy and limiting housing options for people with disabilities (messing up in just one regard was obviously not enough – this landlord went for a “two-fer”). It appears that a father looking for an apartment for himself, his wife, and his toddler son was told by the on-site manager that the community did not rent to families with children! Follow up testing by a fair housing group uncovered another manager saying “no kids,” and “we don’t accept children.” Not only that, but the manager also allegedly told a tester posing as a deaf person that “we don’t allow service animals,” and “if you’re deaf, I don’t think this is the place for you.” As we say today – OMG! So, this landlord will now have to pay big bucks, provide employees with fair housing training, and establish a company-wide antidiscrimination policy. And advertising for the community must now include very specific language that encourages both families with children and people with disabilities to apply.

We have come a long way, yes we have. But these examples just go to show you that we still have a ways to go…indeed we do!

 

Nadeen Green

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