Prospect tours are a common everyday task that all leasing professionals encounter. What fair housing best practices can ensure that you and your team are always compliant?
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It’s easy to become complacent when we complete repetitive tasks. However, becoming complacent can leave you open to a fair housing violation or complaint. One area where this can happen is in giving tours of your units and property.
Prospect Tours—A Possible Fair Housing Pitfall
We have seen testing scenarios where one prospect was offered a tour while another was not. If the prospect is of a different protected class, this can give the appearance of discrimination. Having a consistent policy on how and when tours are offered is essential and can help avoid this potential fair housing pitfall.
Consider the following scenario: A prospect comes in the morning and is offered a tour of both available units as well as the entire property and its amenities. Later that day, another prospect was provided only a unit tour and was asked to reschedule the property tour as the leasing agent needed to leave early.
Things come up. Staff sometimes need to leave early. What do you do in these situations? Documentation is critical—whether you have another leasing agent step in or you reschedule the tour. Clearly note what happened, why it happened, and what alternatives were offered. Having this information readily available will be an asset if a fair housing complaint arises.
What is your policy regarding what units are shown? Here again is a potential fair housing pitfall. Suppose your leasing agents offer different units to different prospects; the “why” must be documented. Perhaps it was something the prospect noted on their guest card or relayed in a comment to the leasing agent. Whatever the case is, the reasons for showing those particular units to that prospect need to be noted. Otherwise, it again can appear that you are discriminating against a protected class.
Non-Accessible Units and Media Accessibility
Another area of concern is when showing units that are on a second floor or higher and the prospect is disabled. To avoid a fair housing complaint, you need to be able to offer an alternative tour. A video or picture book are good substitutes as long as they provide a complete description of the unit.
Using videos or offering virtual tours raises another concern: Is your media accessible? Can a person with visual or auditory impairment access and understand the video? Be sure that all your media includes full-text descriptions and audio components.
The Fair Housing Final Takeaway
With a little bit of thought, a whole lot of documentation, and a clear tour policy, you can avoid potential fair housing problems.
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