The newsLINK Group - Maintenance and Discrimination
Editorial Library Category: Multi-Family & Property Management Topics: Maintenance, Discrimination Title: Maintenance and Discrimination Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: When you think about liability and fair housing, the first think that comes to mind is probably leasing. However, fair housing is about more than that. When you make decisions about leasing, you do have a legal obligation to avoid discrimination, but that obligation doesn’t end with signing a lease. Editorial: Maintenance and Discrimination 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 When you think about liability and fair housing, the first thing that comes to mind is probably leasing. However, fair housing is about more than that. When you make decisions about leasing, you do have a legal obligation to avoid discrimination, but that obligation doesn’t end with signing a lease. You are also liable for providing nondiscriminatory maintenance services. That means you need to train your maintenance staff to make their workplace decisions in a way that doesn’t expose the multifamily community to potential lawsuits. How bad is the problem? The National Fair Housing Alliance estimates that more than four million violations occur every year. Only a small number get reported, but when you are talking millions, a small percentage can still be sizable. As far as discrimination is concerned, what are the specific categories you should keep in mind? Color Familial disability Familial status National origin Race Religion Sex The top 10 fair housing mistakes are as follows: 1. Not training staff, including maintenance staff, about the Fair Housing laws for your geographic area. 2. Not having a protocol for maintenance staff to follow when responding to service requests. This can look as though the maintenance staff plays favorites with tenants. 3. Evicting hoarders. (Hoarding is a disability.) You should not ignore hoarding, but you would be wise to be extremely careful in the way you handle the problem. 4. Not letting residents have service animals. Your community may not allow pets, but you have to allow service animals anyway. They are not pets, and they cannot be subjected to the same rules as pets. 5. Not giving a resident with a disability an assigned parking spot. You might think you have enough available parking spots available, but you are still exposing yourself to liability by refusing. 6. Turning any potential resident away for any reason other than the criteria you list for everyone. 7. Not documenting the specials you offer potential residents. 8. Not knowing whether your geographical area has more protected classes than the “federal seven” listed above. 9. Asking prospective tenants how many children they have or whether a woman is pregnant. These are discriminatory questions. 10. Specifically prohibiting children from activities such as biking. If you prohibit something, it has to be prohibited for everyone. The best way to protect yourself and your multifamily community is to have a written policy about protocols and how service is scheduled, and then to make sure staff follows them. Be sure to include two specific problem areas: The type of service request: Staff should list and consider every possible reason a tenant might have for making a service request, and then develop a logical protocol for how these requests are to be handled. The protocol should make sense from the point of view of safety and health, and it should be the same for all residents. Priorities for service requests: Your general policy probably consists of dealing with maintenance requests on a first come, first served basis. However, not all requests have the same priority. A broken pipe is always going to take priority over a leaky faucet, for example.
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