A handful of helpful reminders today in response to questions sent in by blog readers:
- If you are going to draft community rules and policies (indeed, a best practice in my view) please remember not to single out members of a protected class. For example, if you want to prohibit running and/or playing in your apartment community parking lot (a good safety practice), don’t write your rule such that it reads “Children are Not Permitted to Run in Our Parking Areas” – because if you do, you run the real risk of being named a Respondent in a fair housing case asserting familial status discrimination. And then really needing to speak with a lawyer like me. Write the rule to read that “Nobody is Permitted to Run in Our Parking Areas” – which addresses the issue you want to highlight while avoiding singling out members of a protected class (families with children). Use the same type of language with respect to your swimming pool – require supervision for anyone who is unable to swim. Don’t single out minors as it can be perceived as discriminatory (and might miss the mark as many kids are excellent swimmers while some adults best take a water safety course before heading into the pool).
- I also recommend you use the Equal Housing Opportunity logo and/or include a statement like “We follow the letter and spirit of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and its state and local law counterparts. We operate our community in a manner welcoming to all who meet our non-discriminatory resident selection criteria as well as we will review, evaluate, and respond to any reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification request received on behalf of a resident or applicant with a disability” in your rules and/or advertising. We all have an obligation to follow the law and confirming our commitment to fair housing is another good practice for professional apartment management. Also, when you use pictures with people in advertising – while not every picture needs to have diverse family members or people, ensure that your campaign photos are representative of the population at large.
- If your community is in a county or city which, for example, prohibits Pit Bulls as pets – remember you still need to process an assistance animal application from a resident with a Pit Bull. The federal FHA trumps the local no Pit Bull ordinance and we must evaluate and respond to such a reasonable accommodation request.
Just A Thought.