Apartment Living BlogFair Housing › Fair Housing Lady Reflects on Fairness: 28 Years in Fair Housing

Alexander Britton “Brit” Hume, an American television journalist and political commentator, has said that, “Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.”

 

For more than a quarter of a century, I have been a believer in, and a teacher and writer of fair housing law as the “Fair Housing Lady“. For more than 20 of those years, I have been supported and encouraged in that role by my employer, ForRent.com. ForRent.com has given me an opportunity to share my thoughts on this important topic with the apartment industry.

 

It has been an honor to work with the professionals in our industry and to encourage you to develop and exercise the professional skill of fairness. It is, however, time for me to move on to another chapter in my life and that new chapter will begin with my May 26th retirement. But fret not! The Fair Housing content will not go away with my departure. The teams at ForRent are lining up Fair Housing experts across the industry to continue to bring you that same great content that I have so enjoyed bringing you for years. And, there are even several blogs lined up to go live AFTER I retire so you have not seen the last of the Fair Housing Lady! As I say good-bye and hang up my Fair Housing Lady hat, I would like to share some thoughts with you one more time.

 

Before the Fair Housing Act was amended in 1988, many landlords did not have much knowledge about fair housing laws. It was not that they were bigoted or evil. On the contrary, the “good guys” did not intentionally discriminate and at the time, that was all that mattered, especially as there were “bad guys” who did, in fact, do so and that was the fair housing focus.

 

With the 1988 amendments to the Act, however, fair housing became a widespread issue for our apartment industry. With significantly increased financial impact for fair housing violations and the addition of families with children and those with disabilities to the protected classes, fair housing compliance became a hot topic and has remained that for the decades since.

 

For apartment housing providers it was no longer about intentional discrimination, particularly as to race. Lessons were learned that even unintentional policies and procedures could present fair housing liability. Unreasonable rules for children, not understanding the need to reasonably accommodate for people with disabilities, national origin issues after 9/11…these became the focus. Today, as we continue to evolve as a society, we find that we must consider a vast array of new issues, ranging from social media marketing to transgender bathrooms in the community clubhouse; from medical marijuana in some jurisdictions to the risks associated with disparate impact (currently focused on criminal background checks of prospective renters).

 

As I close my chapter as Fair Housing Lady, what I want you to know is that I believe for every one of the “bad guys” that are rightly taken to task by the system, that there are so many more of you “good guys” out there. I want to encourage you to continue to keep eyes and ears open to the continuing developments in fair housing; attend fair housing classes (and arrange them for your conferences and meetings); dialogue with and ask for an open door to the advocates, letting them know that you want their advice and input without risk in reaching out. You are the “good guys” in the apartment housing arena. Let your actions echo the words of Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court:

 

“Fairness is what justice really is.”

Nadeen Green

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