If HUD Calls Do You Have Documentation To Defend Yourself?

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If HUD Calls Do You Have Documentation To Defend Yourself?

The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on the issue of documentation to help property management professionals defend themselves in the event of a Fair Housing Act discrimination charge.

 By Ellen Clark

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $37 million to more than 150 national and local organizations working to confront Fair Housing Act violations.

The enforcement will come through testing, filing fair housing complaints, and investigations by these organizations.

 In order to successfully defend your decisions, policies, and practices, as well as demonstrate that all persons were treated the same, your documentation must be complete and contain relevant facts. This seems like a good time to talk about documentation.

If HUD calls, do you have documentation to defend yourself?

Documentation is extremely important if you find yourself dealing with an accusation of discrimination. You must be able to defend your decisions, policies, and practices, as well as demonstrate that all persons were treated the same, regardless of membership in one of the protected classes.

Accordingly, your documentation should offer a full accounting of facts. Describe all events and actions taken, all people involved, and provide specific dates and times.

 Your documentation will not be effective if you do not keep the supporting paperwork: copies of service requests, guest cards, and availability reports. These records will be used to verify the dates and times of customer requests, availability changes, and rental rate changes. 

When it comes to documentation, keep your records complete, organized, and on file for three to five years.

Tips for good documentation and record-keeping strategies

  • Use guest cards for consistent documentation on all prospective residents who call or visit.
  • Document all follow-up activity on the guest card.
  • Follow up both verbally and in writing with anyone whose rental application is declined.
  • Keep an organized file of your apartment availability reports.
  • Document the dates and times of any rental rate changes.
  • Keep all service requests on file. Be sure the work done, time completed, and technician’s name are noted on the request.
  • Keep important documentation, including guest cards, declined applications, availability reports, dates and times of rental rate changes, and all service requests on file for at least three years, though preferably for five  years.

Why keep records for three to five years?

It is becoming more common for unsuccessful HUD complaints to be filed as lawsuits.

In this case, the complainant has two years from the time the discriminatory housing practice ended or occurred to file a lawsuit.

However, the two years does not include any time in which administrative proceedings from the original HUD complaint were pending.

Also, if a conciliation agreement was reached between the two parties in a HUD discrimination claim, and the accused party violates the agreement, the complainant has two years from the time the agreement is violated to file a lawsuit.

So, long story short, proceedings related to a complaint could go on for a very long time!

 HUD’s recent announcement reminds us that private organizations play a key role in enforcing fair housing laws, and that they are being provided with ammunition from the government to step up enforcement.

Of course, it is best to do all you can to prevent claims in the first place.  But if it happens, good documentation can help make the process go as smoothly as possible.

 Read Ellen’s full blog post here.

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About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools - measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.

Resources:

HUD Awards $37 Million to Fair Housing Organizations to Fight Housing Discrimination

HUD awards $37 million to fight housing discrimination

According to HUD, the types of grants announced as part of the $37 million award are: education and outreach initiative grants,fair housing organization initiative grants and  private enforcement initiative grants.

  • Education and Outreach Initiative grants (EOI) – $7,450,000 is awarded to organizations that educate the public and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under federal law. The grants can also support state and local organizations that enforce fair housing laws that are equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act.
  • Fair Housing Organizations Initiative (FHOI) – $500,000 is awarded to help build the capacity and effectiveness of non-profit fair housing organizations, particularly organizations that focus on the rights and needs of underserved groups, such as rural and immigrant populations.
  • Private Enforcement Initiative grants (PEI) – A total of $30.35 million is awarded to organizations that conduct intake, testing, investigation and litigation of fair housing complaints under the Fair Housing Act.

Here are some organizations in the West and the funding they received earlier this year.

  • Arizona – Southwest Fair Housing Council - $313,972
  • California – Multiple agencies across the state - $4,474,999
  • Colorado – Denver Metro Fair Housing Center - $425,000
  • Nevada – Silver State Fair Housing Council - $425,000
  • Oregon – Fair Housing Council of Oregon - $425,000
  • Utah – Disability Law Center - $282,830
  • Washington State – Northwest Fair Housing Alliance - $425,000, Fair Housing Center of Washington - $300,000.

 

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