Reducing Risk of Fair Housing Violations

Posted On: October 30, 2019

We just came back from the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) Fall Meeting in Washington, DC. One of the topics was Fair Housing. The title of this informative session was Opportunities for Discrimination and How Owners and Agents Accidentally Put Themselves at Risk.

We usually think of opportunities as a good thing, but in this case, the panel discussed how owner agents open themselves up for complaints and lawsuits with inadequate training and a lack of evidence.

Jeffrey Promnitz, CEO of Zeffert and Associates, gave an example of an otherwise stellar employee who forgot a resident request to move to a new unit. The resident had a note from a doctor. However, the employee was rushing out the door to get to a college class. She forgot about the request, and she did not write a note to remind herself when she returned to the office. The incident eventually led to a lawsuit. Promnitz says this is where documentation is critical.

“You don’t want to become the next test case for a fair housing case.”

So how do we encourage our staff to stay on top of something as simple as leaving a sticky note to remind themselves the next day?

“Sometimes people are not fully aware of the necessary documentation,” said panelist Iyen Acosta, an associate with Reno and Cavanaugh. “Educate your staff to show we did everything we needed to do.”

Acosta also suggested regular meetings to review the day. Get your staff to discuss any issues or requests that came up that day. This daily meeting should include Maintenance Staff.

Promnitz told the O/As to use the Four P’s… Post Public Policy for People. 

“Create something for your properties and post it everywhere,” he said.

The public posting creates a higher probability that your staff will take ownership of the policies. It also goes a long way with investigators.

“It shows you put forth and effort in addition to regulations training,” Acosta said.

Training is equally important. Initial onboard training lets your staff know upfront what both you and HUD expect of them.

“You train everybody,” Promnitz noted. “Especially anybody who comes in contact with residents.”


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