Proper Documentation Aids In Fair Housing Defense

Proper Documentation Aids In Fair Housing Defense

A hand clicking on a computer screen looking for documentation to aid in a fair housing defense.

 In this episode, we dive into documentation and why it’s essential to being fair housing compliant. Be sure to check out the full episode and share it with your property management team.

Here are the scenarios we will be discussing in this episode:

  • A prospect comes into the leasing office to look at a two-bedroom unit that is no longer available
  • A resident has made a complaint in the past and is complaining again about strong odors coming from the next-door apartment.

Highlights of Episode 16 – Documentation is Essential.

Documentation, Why It’s Important

A prospect has questions about availability. A resident wants to know why their complaint hasn’t been addressed. Even worse, a fair housing complaint has been lodged. Now what?

It is important to understand what kind of information to include in your documentation of a particular situation so that if necessary it will serve your interests at a future time.

Just like party invitations your documents need to contain who, where, when, and why. It is also useful to include any other staff person or resident who was present or has knowledge of the situation.

Join us as we discuss how proper and consistent documentation is essential to effectively handling these common scenarios.

Housing Availability

In your office, a prospect wants to view the two bedroom unit that a friend said was available only hours before. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Without the proper documentation, this situation can escalate quickly.

It is crucial that every person in your office is properly documenting their interactions with guests and residents and that apartment availability is always up to date. This way, you can quickly and clearly explain why the unit is no longer available.

Without it, you are open to a possible discrimination claim. If a fair housing complaint is filed, an audit of your documentation will show every interaction proving your compliance.

Recurring Tenant Complaint: New Management

Now let’s consider how documentation is essential when dealing with both an ongoing complaint and a management change. A resident has just informed you that there is an odor coming from the adjacent apartment. The smell is causing health issues.

Along with this, you learn this is a second complaint. The first having been lodged over a month ago to a prior manager. You look in the resident’s file and find nothing.

This situation highlights multiple problems. The takeaway from this is that every employee needs to document these interactions and add them to the resident’s file. There also needs to be a regular audit of both the documentation as well as employee compliance.

This will ensure that if there is a change in staff, everyone is still fully informed. It sometimes seems like tedious bureaucracy, but I promise you it will save you a ton of time, money, and possibly your job.

Fair Housing Documentation Best Practices

Company Forms

Many companies use specific forms to document situations and complaints. Using these forms is often preferable over merely writing a narrative because often the forms prompt the employee to include all relevant and important information.

Just The Facts

Stick to the observable facts of a situation. For example, instead of stating “Ms. Smith is obviously not taking her medicine and had another paranoid episode, try to describe what Ms. Smith said and did during your conversation.

Action Documentation

There are many cases when the initial incident is documented, but there’s no record of what was done because of the incident. Even if a telephone call to a resident results, that call should be documented. Obviously, the best evidence is a letter to the resident, which is its own document.

Document Storage

Another issue is where to keep such documents. Many companies keep an incident report in a resident’s file. One problem is if the incident includes several residents. Who’s file do you keep it in? The answer is a copy should be kept in all involved residents’ files, as should the notations on the resulting actions.

Documentation Training

Proper and thorough documentation is a topic, on which nearly all companies should train. To review the performance of your office, we recommend that if you know of an incident that occurred during the past six months, go back and review the documentation that resulted. Analyze whether it was accurate, thorough, used the proper forms, and was retained in the proper files.

To summarize, make sure you document everything thoroughly! It’s going to save you a whole lot of headaches and make your job a lot less challenging. Being able to communicate with the residents clearly will help avoid pitfalls that can lead to bigger problems.

You May Also Like: Fair Housing Policies and Procedures-Are You Covered?

The Fair Housing Institute

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