Dear Fair Housing Insiders:
We have a resident who is special needs. He comes into our office daily and spends all day on the computer and in our community center. That would not be an issue except he will stand around and stare at prospects, makes messes, and harrases my staff. We have had a couple of prospects who have made comments that him staring or listening in on them while with our leasing agent makes them uncomfortable. We are a tax credit community and I have tried being nice and talking to him but he lashes out and says he will sue us for discriminating against him. I am worried about a lawsuit but he has called my staff racial slurs. Could he file a complaint? What can we do to protect ourselves?
Regards ~ Worried
Fair Housing Complacency
First of all, thank you for reaching out to us on Facebook with your question. It is an important question and scenario that you are faced with. Being worried about situations like this help keep you compliant. You can never get complacent when it comes to Fair Housing potential violations.
Addressing Behaviors Not Disabilities
Please remember that in all interactions with residents, we are addressing behaviors and not disabilities. That does, in certain cases, require additional consideration of underlying conditions however it does not mean we must allow continued disruptive behavior after we have done our best to work with the resident.
Specific Rules Posted?
Do you have specific rules posted about using the office and community center, such as “Please limit computer use to no more than 15 minutes at a time” and “All persons are responsible for cleaning up after themselves”? If not, it is worth your consideration. Have you documented the specific instances of this resident harassing your staff and using racial slurs? If not, you’ll have a difficult time proving your case when you take disciplinary action or have to defend yourself in a complaint.
Once you have posted rules and documented behavior issues, have a meeting with the resident and make certain you have a witness to the meeting. Explain that while you value their business, continued non-compliant behavior on the part of the resident will no longer be tolerated and that it will result in the issuance of a non-monetary default notice. Document the meeting and make certain that you are holding all residents to the same behavior standard as this resident.
Don’t Succumb To Fair Housing Fear
Finally, it’s true that anyone can file a complaint or lawsuit regardless of what we do and it’s up to us to prove our innocence. If you let the fear of a complaint stop you from taking the necessary steps to enforce your lease terms and house rules, you’ll be doing yourself, your customers and your owners a great disservice.
Thanks for asking and we hope this helps. Please keep in mind that our comments are recommendations and not legal advice. It is always good to confer with legal counsel
The Fair Housing Insiders