In this lesson, we focus on avoiding discrimination claims based on religion during the holidays—and all throughout the year.
You don’t have to be a “Grinch” to comply with fair housing law. The key is to celebrate the general festivity of the season without promoting a particular religion or particular religious holiday. That way, you’ll satisfy fair housing concerns by showing that your community welcomes everyone—regardless of anyone’s religious practices or beliefs.
This month, the Coach’s lesson offers fair housing basic training for anyone newly hired to work at your community. It’s simple to say that fair housing law bans housing discrimination, but there are pitfalls that sometimes lead even seasoned professionals into fair housing trouble. This lesson reviews the basics so that everyone working at your community—regardless of his or her job—understands what’s okay—and not okay—to do or say when interacting with applicants, residents, and guests at your community.
For anyone new to the rental housing industry, fair housing basic training is a must. Fair housing experts warn against allowing new hires to interact with the public until they receive at least some fair housing instruction. “Any company or employer in this industry that doesn’t give fair housing training on Day 1 is at risk,” warns fair housing expert Anne Sadovsky. That applies to all new hires, not just those in your leasing office, says Sadovsky, who recommends mandatory fair housing training on the first day on the job for everyone—including service techs, maintenance workers, landscapers, and housekeeping staff.
Fair housing law generally prohibits discrimination based on familial status, but there’s a limited exception that applies to senior housing communities that qualify as “housing for older persons.” To qualify, senior housing communities must meet strict technical requirements. Unless they satisfy those requirements, communities may not enforce “adult only” policies or impose age restrictions to keep children from living there.
The focus of this article is on federal law, but it’s important to check the law in your state governing senior housing communities. The specifics may vary, but you could draw unwanted attention from state enforcement agencies if you exclude families with children without satisfying legal requirements to qualify for the senior housing exemption.
Example: In January 2019, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a $10,000 settlement in a fair housing complaint alleging familial status discrimination against the owners of a six-unit rental community and a residential real estate brokerage firm that managed the property.
Fair housing advocates filed the complaint, alleging that the property was advertised online as an “adult complex” and included a restriction of “maximum 2 adults.” During a follow-up call, the property manager reportedly told a tester that children weren’t allowed. DFEH found that the complex wasn’t a senior citizen housing development and that there was cause to believe a violation of state fair housing law had occurred.
“In California, senior housing developments can, with some exceptions, exclude residents under 55 years of age if they have at least 35 units and meet other requirements,” DFEH Director Kevin Kish said in a statement. “All other rental properties violate the law if they categorically exclude families with minor children. By identifying such policies through testing, fair housing organizations such as Project Sentinel play an important role in ensuring that families with children have access to housing.”
In this month’s lesson, we’ll explain what the law requires to qualify for and maintain the senior housing exemption. Then we’ll offer seven rules to help avoid fair housing trouble in senior housing communities. Finally, you can take the Coach’s Quiz to see how much you’ve learned.
This week, the Coach shepherds in the dog days of summer with a lesson on disability-related requests for assistance animals focusing on the most common type—dogs. The law generally allows communities to set their own pet policies, but housing providers must grant reasonable accommodation requests to allow individuals with disabilities to keep assistance animals when necessary to allow them full use and enjoyment of their homes.
Assistance animals can go by many names—service dogs, therapy animals, emotional support animals—and there are different sets of rules on when, where, and what types of animals may be used by individuals with disabilities in various settings. For this lesson, we’ll focus on federal fair housing law—the primary law governing use of assistance animals in multifamily housing communities, and we’ll use the umbrella term—assistance animals—to cover all types of animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities.
In this lesson, the Coach explains who qualifies as an individual with a disability and when you must consider making exceptions to your pet policies as a reasonable accommodation so they may keep an assistance animal at the community. Then we’ll suggest eight rules to help you avoid the missteps that often lead to fair housing trouble.
The 2019 Oregon Legislative Session wrapped up shortly after 5:30 pm yesterday (June 30, 2019). Four significant pieces of legislation passed over the weekend impacting manufactured home communities. The four bills are summarized below. In the weeks to come MHCO will be doing extensive articles on the legislation, forms will be updated and they will be covered extensively at the MHCO Annual Conference in Eugene October 28-29th.
Question: How urgent is this? How soon do you recommend that we review and revise our criminal history policies?
Answer: Time is of the essence, said Williams, who believes that anyone with a broad generalized policy is at high risk for challenge. Certainly the larger your company, the more chance there will be that you could be challenged, so she believes it's a very smart practice for everyone - all companies - to take another look at their criminal screening policy to determine if it needs to be revised, and if so, to immediately go about taking the steps to do so.
If you haven't done so already, pull out your resident selection criteria and take a close look at the evaluation standards for applicants with criminal records. Depending on what it says, you may need to make some changes right away. Then review it in detail - and get help from your attorney, resident screening company, and other advisors to ensure that it complies with HUD guidelines. Richer offered some key best practices:
CRIMINAL HISTORY SELECTION CRITERIA BEST PRACTICES
What should you do in light of HUD's guidance? The first thing to realize is that the HUD guidance isn't intended only for HUD program housing providers, explained Richer.
Industry experts agree that the guidance provided by HUD applies to all housing providers, not just those receiving federal funding. The best practices are being recommended, so that any housing provider that uses criminal histories in its applicant screening process will consider disparate impact and review its criteria, adjusting as necessary, she said.
This is the first of four articles on the legal and practical considerations for housing providers when developing a criminal history screening policy. This is a BIG fair housing issue and one that produces a lot of phone calls to the MHCO Office.
It is very important for all housing providers to review and consider whether your current criminal screening policy should be revised to avoid a successful challenge in a fair housing case based on its disparate impact on minority applicants. "There are fair housing advocacy agencies that are actively searching for companies with simplistic and generalized criminal history policies to challenge. We don't want your companies to be those test cases," she said.
In this series of articles, the Coach presents highlights, along with FAQs about complying with fair housing law when screening applicants based on criminal history.