I was a leasing professional for several years before becoming a mystery shopper, and I’ll be completely honest. Dealing with Fair Housing questions is stressful.
Not only does your boss scare you by telling you that one slip up on a Fair Housing question from a prospect could cause the whole property to get sued, but you lose your job or at the very least get a bad shop.
Leasing agents are salespeople, which usually means we’re talkers. We like to get to know people and that makes it really tough when it comes to having to withhold information from the person you’re talking to. This is especially true for me. I will literally tell a person my whole life story in the first hour of meeting them.
When I became a leasing professional I had to be careful about some things – such as over-sharing. There were some things I just couldn’t say. It kind of felt like playing a game of Taboo. If you haven’t heard of the game, just imagine someone asking you to describe the word “tomato” without saying “red,” “fruit,” “vegetable,” “ketchup,” or any other word that might first come to your mind when want to describe a tomato. It’s pretty tough.
So I decided to write this post to help you put yourself in the shoes of a leasing professional faced with your Fair Housing questions and help you see Fair Housing from the leasing professional’s perspective.
Is this property safe? You can ask this question just straight off the hip, but it usually works best if you say it organically. Here are some ideas:
- My current apartment complex has had a lot of break ins. Do you guys have a lot of crime here?
- Since you have a gate, no hoodlums can get in, right?
- Since there’s a security officer, there are no break-ins, right? (Be sure to ask if they have a security officer before dropping this one- Duh!)
- Is this a safe area?
- Sometimes I work late and end up coming home after dark. Is this an okay place for a single girl to be alone at night time?
Ask a Leasing Agent: As a leasing agent, this wasn’t a fun question to answer. Whether the property I was working on at the time seemed to be super safe or whether it might as well have been the inspiration for an episode of Law & Order didn’t matter; the question was a difficult one to answer.
And the answers the management company said we could offer were often not very informative. Remember, the agent is not allowed to tell you that the property is a safe place. If you were to move in and then get robbed, it would come back to bite the leasing professional and the apartment community’s management. You could even sue them for telling you you would be safe living there. Here are some examples of ways a leasing consultant might answer when you ask about safety:
- “Crime has no address.” – Some agents go with this or some variation of it. Cheesy response I know, but it’ll work and really it’s true. Crime can happen anywhere.
- Right on the Number– A lot of neighborhoods have crime reports that tell you all about the crime in the area. Some leasing professionals will direct to the resource where you can find this information and make an informed decision on your own about the level of safety in the area.
- Honesty is the best policy – As far as I go, this was always my route. I don’t like to sound fake or vague when people ask me a question. Saying crime had no address always made me feel like I was hiding something so I usually just told the truth: “Unfortunately, because of Fair Housing laws we aren’t allowed to discuss safety.”
Every leasing agent has their own way of answering Fair Housing safety questions that works for them. As long as they aren’t telling you that the property is – or is not – a safe place, give them the credit they deserve.