Did You Know Fair Housing Laws Could Apply To Vendors Working At Your Property?

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Vendors and contractors should be provided with key points regarding fair housing laws so this week the Grace Hill training tip takes a look at this issue.

By Ellen Clark

Fair housing is a topic of great importance for anyone working in the multifamily industry.

In fact, it’s so important that fair housing law doesn’t just apply to your full-time employees.

If a vendor or contractor working on-site is accused of discrimination, there can be serious consequences for your community, property management company, and the individual accused of discrimination.

 How much do your vendors know about fair housing laws?

It is important that your vendors and contractors understand and comply with fair housing law.

But you can’t teach a vendor everything there is to know about fair housing law – after all, you and your employees have spent years developing your understanding of the law and how to apply it.  What can you do?

Consider making sure that, at a minimum, vendors and contractors know about the following topics

 The basics of fair housing law:

  •         The purpose of the law and who is protected by it
  •         The definition of discrimination and some examples of discriminatory behavior
  •         The definition of harassment and some examples of harassing behavior
  •         What reasonable accommodations and modifications are

5 basic responsibilities of vendors on your property

It is important to follow the basic fair housing laws in every interaction. 

No. 1 – Don’t discriminate

Treat all residents fairly, equally, and consistently.

Treating one person differently from others could lead to a discrimination complaint.

No. 2 – Be professional and watch out for unintended consequences

Maintain professionalism at all times.

What seems like a funny joke to one person can be offensive or threatening to another.

Something that is intended as a compliment can easily cross the line into inappropriate behavior.

No. 3 – Be careful with small talk

It’s easy to get into fair housing trouble simply by chatting with residents.

While there’s nothing wrong with being friendly, be very careful not to ask questions about any of the protected classes. In most situations, a polite smile and nod or “hello, how are you?” are sufficient.

 No. 4 – Don’t share information about residents

If someone asks you questions like, “What kind of people live here?” or “Does everyone speak English?” don’t give them specific information or invite them to walk around and see for themselves. Instead, let them know that anyone who meets the community’s qualification guidelines is welcome to live there. If pressed further, direct the individual to the leasing office.

 No. 5 – Don’t ask about a disability

Never ask about a resident’s disability, whether or not they have a disability, or what work an assistance animal performs.

More often than not, asking questions about a disability is a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It is best to avoid these types of questions altogether.

Most importantly, make sure vendors and contractors know that when in doubt, they should contact management with questions or concerns. This is truly a case of better safe than sorry!

Did You Know Fair Housing Laws Could Apply To Vendors Working At Your Property
Fair housing laws may apply to vendors working at your apartments and rental properties. Photo credit istockphoto.com

Read Ellen’s blog post here.

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About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk. Contact Grace Hill at 866.472.2344 to hear more.