Dealing with Fair Housing questions is probably the toughest thing for a leasing agent to master, but it’s important for their management company to know how they are handling Fair Housing questions and situations on the property.
Leasing agents (as with most sales people) are typically hired because of their outgoing personality and assertiveness. Being told that they aren’t allowed to discuss certain issues with rental prospects is sometimes a challenge. Even so, it’s hands down the most serious and important rule of leasing. Breaking Fair Housing laws can be detrimental to the agent, the property and the company.
As a mystery shopper it is important you know ask these questions in a natural way that causes the leasing consultant to have to answer the way she would in a real life situation. So, it is important for you to have a basic understanding of what Fair Housing is and what the law says about it.
What is Fair Housing?
The Fair Housing Act was established to protect people against housing discrimination. The laws prohibit discrimination based on a person’s:
- National origin,
- Familial status,
- or Disability.
Each of these 7 things is considered a “protected class”. No one may take the following actions based on the protected classes:
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for rental
- For profit, persuade owners to rent or sell
Not only is it important to protect the rights of new protective residents, it’s also important to protect the rights of people who are currently living on the property. That’s why apartment mystery shopping reports will usually contain questions about Fair Housing. Leasing agents are not only prohibited from asking new prospects questions related to any protected class, but they are also prohibited from divulging any information that has to do with the demographics of the property as they related to any of the protected classes.
Examples of questions leasing agents are not permitted to ask due to Fair Housing
- Do you have any kids?
- Are you single?
- Have you ever been married?
- Do you attend the temple nearby?
- What country are you from?
- How long have you been in a wheel chair?
- Are you sure want to live on the top floor since you’re blind?
- Are you pregnant?
- Are you African American?
Some things a Leasing Professional should not say due to Fair Housing Laws
- You know, most of the people on the property are families.
- There are tons of kids on the property.
- We have a high Muslim population on the property.
- Most of the people who live here are Indian.
- The people who live in the apartment above you are African American just like you, so you’d probably get along.
- This is a predominately Hispanic property.
- There are more families in building 12.
- There’s a property down the road with people more like you.
If a leasing agent asks you one of these questions (or something similar) or makes a comment that mentions one of the protected classes while you are apartment mystery shopping them, be sure to include it in your report.
If you have any questions regarding appropriate behavior from a leasing agent while you are conducting a mystery shop always contact a representative at the mystery shopping company before you submit your report.