Are you and your staff ready for when a tester comes to call? Testing, testing one two three. Leslie joins us to share tips to help ensure that you don’t fail your fair housing test.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
This article will focus on who can be a tester and the more common methods they employ. Being prepared and knowing what to look and listen for can mean the difference between passing the test or a costly lawsuit along with a fair housing complaint.
Who Can Be a Tester?
Testers come from all walks of life. They are employed by various agencies like state fair housing departments, private fair housing advocacy groups, and the Department of Justice. Regardless of who they work for, their job is to ascertain whether you are following the law and are fair housing compliant.
A tester uses leading questions to target known trouble spots within our industry. Vague or leading questions should immediately raise a red flag in your mind that you are talking to a tester. You need to be sure that you are not saying or doing anything that could be interpreted as a violation.
Testers also employ all forms of contact. The majority of testing is done by phone as it’s the easiest and least expensive, but on-site tests happen as well. Email is also used along with other contact points like social media outlets. Basically, any place a potential resident would cross paths with a leasing agent.
Common Topics Used In Testing
We all know that there are certain topics or questions that come up when talking with prospective residents that are a little harder to handle. One of the most common questions is about animals or pets.
Testers will employ a method of giving you just enough information and seeing how you respond. For example, a person calls in and says they are interested in your property but want to make sure their dog would be allowed and that the dog is a German Shepherd. Now your first inclination might be to jump right into your pet policy, and perhaps that breed of dog is against the rules. But notice, the person said their dog, not their pet.
By assuming that the dog is a pet, you could be setting yourself up for a fair housing complaint. Best practices dictate that you can discuss your pet policy as long as you also share your assistance animals policy. Encourage the person to come in and fill out an application, as that is what will genuinely determine eligibility.
Another common question we come across is about accessibility. You receive a phone call that a person would like to take a tour but is in a wheelchair and wants to know how accessible your property is. Perhaps your property isn’t that accessible, especially if it was built before the laws that came into effect that require it. Should you disclose this and offer to recommend a more accessible property?
While on the surface, you may think you are doing the right thing and being honest, this can also appear as discrimination and steering. The correct thing to do would be to encourage them to visit the property’s website to see more images and, of course, arrange for a tour if they wish. You should never discourage a prospect from coming in to take a tour or fill out an application under any circumstances. Always be warm and welcoming to all and let people make their own choices.
These are just a few topics that can come up during a fair housing test, but anything fair housing-related can be utilized. Regardless of whether you agree with testing and the tactics they are legally allowed to use, you need to be prepared. Proper training is key to ensuring fair housing compliance.
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