See why verification forms are so important in property management and how to stay in compliance with Fair Housing rules.
By The Fair Housing Institute
Verification forms play a pivotal role in property management offices, particularly when handling requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications under the Fair Housing Act. This article delves into the nuanced world of verification forms, shedding light on their significance, considerations, and best practices for optimal use.
Understanding Verification Forms
Verification forms serve as essential tools for property management when dealing with requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications. They are designed to ascertain whether a resident qualifies as disabled under the Fair Housing Act and genuinely requires the requested accommodation or modification. Often, disabilities may not be readily apparent, necessitating the involvement of a third-party verifier to establish eligibility.
Expanding on this point, it’s essential to recognize that the Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, among other factors. Verification forms are instrumental in ensuring compliance with this law by validating disability-related requests.
The Necessity of Using Verification Forms
Property management entities are not legally mandated to employ verification forms. However, adopting a well-defined process for handling accommodation or modification requests, which includes the use of verification forms, is highly recommended. While some residents may provide letters from their verifiers that contain all the requisite information, having standardized verification forms streamlines the process and ensures consistency.
Common Issues in Processing Verification Forms
One common challenge arises when verification forms or letters lack essential information. To qualify for a reasonable accommodation or modification, residents must substantiate their disability and the associated need for the requested change. In cases where documentation falls short, property managers should seek clarification from the verifier, with written consent from the resident.
Another prevalent issue in processing verification forms is the credibility of the verifier. In instances where the verifier’s qualifications or knowledge of the resident’s condition are questionable, seeking legal counsel from a fair-housing attorney is advised. This ensures that the appropriate course of action is determined within the boundaries of fair housing laws.
Best Practices for Verification Forms
While many property managers employ generic forms, customization can significantly enhance the effectiveness of verification forms. Customized forms can include targeted questions that provide detailed information about the accommodation request.
For example, consider this scenario: A resident has requested to move to another apartment due to a claim that their neighbor’s candles bother their asthma. Having pre-prepared forms that deal specifically with allergies and chemical sensitivities can help speed up the process by asking all the right questions that a generic form might miss. In addition, having this additional information facilitates a more informed evaluation of the request’s legitimacy.
It is also critical that housing providers establish robust follow-up policies. Timely responses and proper documentation of all interactions, including dates and discussion details, serve as valuable evidence in demonstrating due diligence and will protect the property if a fair-housing claim were to arise.
Training and Forms
Having an assortment of well-prepared forms is just the beginning. Staff training is a necessity to make sure that they have a thorough understanding of what the forms require and what they legally can request. Along with this, role-playing common situations that arise when a resident is asked to fill out a form will help staff know how to reply properly and help avoid any appearance of discrimination.
In conclusion, verification forms are indispensable assets for property management companies in ensuring compliance with the Fair Housing Act and efficiently processing reasonable accommodation or modification requests. Customized forms and well-defined follow-up procedures, along with training, can significantly enhance the utility of verification forms.
Property management offices should strive to stay current with policies and procedures while tailoring forms to address various accommodation requests effectively. Ultimately, the careful use of verification forms contributes to a fair and equitable housing environment for all residents.
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.