I regularly do fair housing training or speak on fair housing issues. I always appreciate the opportunity to talk with those in the housing industry (residents, owners, leasing office employees and government officials) to review issues of common interest.
When at a speaking engagement, I like to follow the HUD (or state, city, or county) fair housing official because I get to say that -- almost without exception -- management agrees with everything the official just said. Lost in the ether of fair housing defense and litigation is that management is required to follow the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and indeed that we want to ensure every qualified applicant gets to move into our community.
In addition to following the law, management company employees are reviewed and compensated, in part, on filling available units. Even if occupancy percentages at some communities tip over 90% -- that means there still are available units to fill. And my management team wants to get applications approved. Again, it is more than just following applicable law -- it is how we do business.
Am I saying housing discrimination does not occur? Of course not. I am, however, noting that I see many more cases where a resident, former resident, or applicant files a case because he or she is disgruntled with management for one reason or another -- and not because management violated any law. Make no mistake, if management learns of any leasing office employee acting in violation of the letter or spirit of the laws preventing housing discrimination, management can and will act. Similarly, have I seen cases in which a mistake or error was made by a leasing office employee? Unfortunately, yes. And when we see those situations, my management team does everything we can to make it right.