In honor of Fair Housing Compliance Month we wanted to share with you the different ways that AppFolio helps property managers with Fair Housing compliance.
Fair Housing Compliant Questions with Online Applications
Our application asks for specific information from prospective tenants and it only asks questions that are compliant with Fair Housing. For example, the online application never asks about race or gender or any other discriminatory question. We include the standard questions that are compliant with fair housing such as, “Have you been convicted of a felony?” It’s okay to base decisions on this kind of data. We’ve also designed the online rental application to be simple and only contain the minimum amount of data for the applicant and not extraneous questions that could open you up for discrimination issues.
Make a List of the Qualifying Criteria for Your Potential Residents
I recommend for all of our customers to make a list ahead of time, before accepting applications, of criteria for qualifying a resident. Then make sure you stick to that list! This will help tremendously if you ever get sued for discrimination. You can always go back to your list and point out the criteria for a qualified applicant – common examples include setting a credit score minimum, or requiring that the applicant was not convicted of a felony in the last 5 years.
Most property managers actually have different criteria. For example in the past, foreclosures may have been on a property manager’s exclusion list. But in this economic climate, more people may have had a foreclosure and they still make great renters. In addition, that criteria is something you can put into our online application so it is right there on the application. So if the applicant applies, he/she signs that online application and confirms they read and understand the application requirements.
A lot of property managers don’t realize how important it is to have that written criteria and avoid making one-time exceptions. Don’t forget that you can make your criteria specific – you can say that a felony of violent crimes may not be okay but a felony of non-violent crimes is allowed, for example. It is up to you but you absolutely should be consistent.
Time of Application is Important!
When using AppFolio’s online applications, the applications are all stored in AppFolio and sorted by date and time. An important Fair Housing requirement is if you have 2 applicants and both parties are equally qualified, then you have to give the rental to the first person that applied. If both people pass your qualifications (such as a resident must apply with a minimum credit score of 600) and both applicants meet this requirement, then in AppFolio you can look at the date/time the application was submitted and make sure you go with the person who completed the application first.
Resident Screening is Built-In
Another way you can stay compliant with Fair Housing is with the resident screening feature (optional) that is built into AppFolio. Screening prospective applicants helps property managers make qualified decisions by providing data on criminal backgrounds and credit scores. You can make move-in decisions based on looking at the full screening report to make sure that you comply with your qualifying criteria.
The bottom line in Fair Housing is to make sure you treat all applicants equally!