FAIR HOUSING TRAINING A MUST FOR MAINTENANCE DEPARTMENTS

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Maintenance professionals interact with residents on a regular basis, often being the first team members to arrive when a repair call is scheduled. This is why fair housing training needs to be a prerequisite. We expect all our team members to be kind and courteous to residents, but they also need to know where to draw the line to avoid any misinterpretations. Scenario-based fair housing training will aid in finding a balance and avoiding costly complaints. Consider a few of the following scenarios.

Moonlighting and Favors

It is common for residents to ask maintenance professionals to take on side jobs. This can lead to some serious problems. For example, a resident offers to pay an employee to move some things. But what happens if something gets broken, goes missing, or worse yet the employee is injured. Is the company going to be able to support the employee under the circumstances? Probably not as they weren’t on the clock so to speak. Best practices dictate that your employee kindly turns down the job to avoid any possible issues.

What about a favor? Doing favors for a resident is something else the employee should politely turn down. Again, something could possibly occur while the employee is helping the resident. Along with that, this can open the door to accusations of favoritism something that you definitely want to avoid.

Socializing

Should employees socialize with residents outside of work? As a rule, it should be against company policy. What are the benefits of having this policy? Not only do you avoid any appearance of favoritism, but you also have the added protection against allegations of sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment

Instituting a policy like the one above will help avoid these types of complaints. But more needs to be done. Employees need to have ongoing training so they clearly understand the difference between friendly and too friendly. For example, an employee seems to be hanging around a certain resident, commenting on her appearance, and asks her out for drinks after work. Not illegal but definitely troublesome. This type of behavior can easily result in a harassment claim. Fair housing training for maintenance professionals absolutely needs to cover scenarios like this and set clear boundaries.

Steering or Leading

What should a maintenance employee do if they are approached by a potential resident who wants to know about the kind of people living within the property? How should they answer? Best practices would be for the employee to kindly refer them to the leasing office. This way you can avoid any allegations that a leading or steering response was given to either discourage or encourage the potential resident to a particular building.

Parking Assignment

Again, these types of questions should be referred to the leasing office as this may fall under a reasonable accommodation request. This way you avoid any possible violations under The Fair Housing Act. Training for this situation would include the staff member not discouraging the resident from making the request, as well as not divulging any other resident’s private information as to how they were assigned their parking spot.

Maintenance Request 

 It is a good business practice to train your maintenance employees on the types of fair housing issues that may arise when it comes to maintenance requests. What happens when a maintenance employee avoids a work order because he doesn’t particularly like that resident. Well, this again can lead to a fair housing complaint. Perhaps the resident feels that the work isn’t being done due to their race. This can all be avoided with proper fair housing training.

Housing Modification Requests

What should a maintenance employee do when a resident asks about housing modifications needed due to a disability? Without proper training, the employee might give out misinformation or divulge personal or private information about another resident. Perhaps, telling the resident that he has done similar work for another resident. This can lead to problems if the resident is then told by the office staff that they will be responsible for any costs associated with the requested modifications. Now you run the risk of a fair housing complaint. Training regarding reasonable modifications, the American with Disabilities Act, and communications skills would definitely help your maintenance professional be ready for these types of situations.

Final Thought On Fair Housing Maintenance Training

Each of these situations can be defended and may not be found to be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.  However, each of these situations could have been handled better, possibly avoiding the resulting fair housing case, saving you time and money.  Although maintenance employees don’t need detailed information concerning the fair housing issues involved with processing applications and making selection decisions, they do need to understand how their actions can result in a fair housing problem.  The bottom line… Fair Housing training for maintenance professionals is paramount.

Author: Kathi Williams
Multifamily Insiders