Are There Resident Bullying/Harassment Best Practices?

Conflict is inevitable, but the turning point is when resident bullying and resident harassment turns into a Fair Housing Act issue
Situations of resident harassment and resident bullying will occur on any property. And they’re tough incidents to deal with.

Conflict is inevitable, but the key turning point is when resident bullying and resident harassment turns into a the Fair Housing Act issue and cannot be tolerated.

By The Fair Housing Institute

It’s simply a part of managing any property; your residents aren’t always going to agree. This makes conflict inevitable, but the key turning point is when it turns into bullying and harassment. To be clear, the Fair Housing Act states that resident bullying and harassment cannot be tolerated. Are you sure that your property, as a whole, has the best practices in place when it comes to resident bullying and harassment? Let’s go over four key points that occur during this situation and highlight best practices for each.

1.   Best Practice: Proper Training for Staff

Your staff members typically have the most contact with your residents. They’re the listening ear and first point of contact for many issues, including incidents of harassment and bullying. So what should happen if your staff member witnesses a case of resident bullying?

First and foremost, any member of your staff who is not involved with management should not get involved in the situation in any way. This is because not all staff members will have the training to discern a personality conflict from a conflict based on a protected category/class.

The training you should invest in for all staff members is twofold: incident reaction and documentation. Training all staff members to stay a witness to an incident involving resident bullying and harassment is your first step. The next steps are to ensure that everyone understands how to document the witnessed occurrence properly. Any little detail missed can affect management’s investigation of the incident.

2.   Best Practice: Incident Documentation

So, a staff member has witnessed and documented a conflict between two residents that they perceived to be bullying and/or harassment. What are management’s next steps? Along the same lines as staff-member training, ensure that every step you take is well-documented when following up on the reported incident.

Your first important step is to establish that there is bullying and/or harassment taking place between the residents. If there is enough evidence found to support this claim, you cannot hesitate to launch an investigation. Why is this?

3.   Best Practice: No Investigation Hesitation

The most important answer to the above question is quite simple: Investigation hesitation can lead to a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal for harassment to persist with no action on behalf of the housing provider.

As a follow-up answer, the housing provider will almost always be the focus of the legal case if a court investigation is launched. This is based on the fact that the housing provider is operating as an asset of a property management company, therefore, they have more money to pay in a settlement, as opposed to an individual who was the cause of the bullying. In summary, if you want to avoid a pricey settlement on top of a violation fine, it’s best that you launch an investigation as soon as it has been proven harassment is taking place.

4.   Best Practice: Zero-Tolerance Policy

Once you have your documentation in place, from the incident report to the investigation, it is up to management to issue consequential action. Bullying and harassment are not only against the Fair Housing Act, they also are violations of the resident’s lease.

Depending on the severity of the situation, a lease violation or termination can be issued. A zero-tolerance for bullying and harassment policy can also be installed as part of your property for further proof of a decision made by management.

Conclusion

Situations of resident harassment and resident bullying will occur on any property. And they’re tough incidents to deal with. In any case, remember the discussed best practices: ensure your staff is properly trained, incident documentation must be as thorough as possible, don’t give in to investigation hesitation, and consider a zero-tolerance policy.

Above all else, remember the Fair Housing Act is against bullying and harassment of any kind. So ensure you’re following through on your responsibility to uphold and abide by its laws.

About the author:

In 2005, The Fair Housing Institute was founded as a company with one goal: to provide educational and entertaining fair-housing compliance training at an affordable price at the click of a button.

 

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