Fair Housing Complaints – Are You Protected Against Liability?

Fair Housing Complaints – Are You Protected Against Liability? (04/05/17)

April is Fair Housing Month, and a good time to check to see if you are protected against costly Fair Housing complaints and litigation. Most importantly, are you sure your staff is familiar with the law and properly complying with it?

Nondiscriminatory policies and procedures are ineffective if they are not observed. The only way to make sure you and your staff comply with the fair housing laws is through education and staff training. Under the federal fair housing laws, not only is the person who discriminated liable under a complaint, but that person’s supervisors and employers can also be liable—even if they were unaware of the discriminatory activity.

Every employee should be trained on all aspects of the fair housing laws and the possible repercussions for violating the law. If a discrimination complaint is filed, the liability extends up the ladder—all the way to the property owner. Therefore, a property manager is liable for the actions of the site manager, leasing professionals, maintenance personnel, etc. Under the theory of vicarious liability, even if supervisors were not aware of an employee’s discriminatory activities, they can still be named in, for example, a fair housing discrimination complaint of sexual harassment as a result of harassing behavior. In other words, liability cannot be delegated.

Ignorance is a liability. Violations of fair housing protections are costly and avoidable. One employee using greetings like “Hi, beautiful” to female residents could lead to sexual harassment complaints against your company, damage to your company’s reputation, and loss of value to the property.

By taking a highly visible approach to fair housing compliance, property team members emphasize to residents the commitment to providing equal opportunity in housing and set the example for other team members to follow.

If you don’t already have a Fair Housing education program for your staff, check out the Fair Housing and Beyond course, developed collaboratively by IREM and the National Apartment Association.

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