Home / Commentary / Avoiding Discrimination of SFR Tenants
Print This Post Print This Post

Avoiding Discrimination of SFR Tenants

Compliance BHLast week, HUD released several announcements about charges of discrimination against tenants (be it intentional or unintentional) across several states including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Hampshire. This discrimination range from people with disabilities to families with children.

“Families with children have the same rights as any other American,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The enforcement actions we are taking today signal HUD’s commitment to ensuring that housing providers meet their obligation to treat all applicants and residents the same.”

DS News sat down with Lynn Dover, Partner at Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP, to discuss what types of discrimination claims she sees come through her desk most often and ways for those in the SFR space to avoid these issues.

What common violations under the Fair Housing Act do you see single-family rental investors being charged with?

The biggest issues that we see are:

1) Rental criteria that have an unintended discriminatory effect on one or more protected class

2) Rules or community policies that have an unintended discriminatory effect on families with children

3) Mishandling of requests for reasonable accommodation and modification

In terms of rental criteria that have unintentional consequences, what are some examples?

Examples of the first two issues are rental criteria that require applicants to have a Social Security Number, a credit history, or a rental history in order to rent (which can have a disparate impact based on national origin or age, both of which are protected in California), or rules that require parents to supervise their children whenever they are in the common areas or that ban activities in the common areas that are considered to be normal child play.

Examples of the third issue are failing to recognize when an exception to normal policies must be made to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability or requiring that a person who has made an accommodation or modification request use an owner or company’s forms or follow their procedures exactly in order to have the request granted.

How can those in the SFR market best avoid the issue of discrimination toward tenants?

The best advice we can give to owners and management companies with regard to the first two issues is to have their rental criteria and lease documents (including rules/community policies) reviewed by an experienced fair housing attorney. Reviews should be conducted on an annual basis since the laws and interpretation of those laws are constantly changing.

With regard to the third issue, it is extremely important for owners and management companies to develop detailed policies and procedures for handling requests for disability-related accommodations and modifications with the assistance of an experienced fair housing attorney. Once those policies and procedures are in place, the next important step is to make sure that all employees are thoroughly trained on how to handle disability-related requests consistent with the policies and procedures and to periodically audit or “spot check” files to make sure the policies and procedures are being consistently followed.

About Author: Kendall Baer

Kendall Baer is a Baylor University graduate with a degree in news editorial journalism and a minor in marketing. She is fluent in both English and Italian, and studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Apart from her work as a journalist, she has also managed professional associations such as Association of Corporate Counsel, Commercial Real Estate Women, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Project Management Institute for Association Management Consultants in Houston, Texas. Born and raised in Texas, Baer now works as the online editor for DS News.

Check Also

Pending Home Sales Rebound in October

Reversing the trend of just one month ago, pending sales of U.S. homes rose 7.5% in October as consumers regained their financial footing to lock in rates before an anticipated rise.

Your Daily Dose of DS News

Get the news you need, when you need it. Subscribe to the Daily Dose of DS News to receive each day’s most important default servicing news and market information, absolutely free of charge.