Preventing Discriminatory Housing Practices (and How to Test For It)

June 15, 2015

Discrimination is a blight that affects the rental industry and it is the responsibility of housing providers to ensure that it ends. Victims are offered higher rents and deposits, are shown lower end product or are simply denied housing altogether. Preventing discrimination is achieved through a combination of hiring, training, and testing. By using best practices in all of these areas, the blight of discrimination can be extinguished.

The first key to preventing discrimination is in hiring. A company that values inclusionary renting practices must stay diligent when hiring individuals who will represent it. Culture is everything at Blanton Turner and inclusion is part of that culture. We use exhaustive methods to find people who fit our culture and simply will not hire someone who does not add to it. The hiring process is not without its faults and bad hires are made every now and again. We are typically able to weed those out by the training and testing processes.

Our training begins before a new employee, no matter their experience, steps foot on a property. We use a software based system that trains and tests every individual on both fair housing and sexual harassment prevention. Failure to pass either course results in additional training and testing. If a person cannot get past these tests, they are not employed by the company. Additional training comes from peer training on-site at the individual properties and in core teams. A culture that encourages people to treat everyone fairly means that employees simply treat everyone fairly. Cross-training and job shadowing between team members ensures that areas of concern are caught before they become an issue. Employees are asked to re-take the fair housing classes on a regular basis. The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) is also an excellent source of fair housing training. All Blanton Turner managers are required to complete the RES201 course in advance of receiving the Accredited Residential Manager certification. This 5 day class is built around the principles of education and ethics, with fair housing being at the core of those ethics. Managers are also encouraged to take the IREM classes prerequisite to the Certified Property Manager, which include Ethics, Marketing and Leasing and Human Resources, all courses based on the principles of fair housing. Exhaustive training is a major key to prevent discrimination, and although the tests therein are important, in situ testing is of utmost importance.

There are good test methods and poor test methods. Poor test methods only cause chaos and media frenzy. Good test methods can be a learning tool used to weed out any evidence of discriminatory practices, whether intentional or not. The City of Seattle Office of Civil Rights recently released a list of 13 apartment communities in Seattle that were charged with housing discrimination. A Blanton Turner property was included in that list. To say that is a blow is an understatement, both to our company and the individual tested. We deny that, in this instance, any discrimination occurred. So what did happen? In this case, two Caucasian females were sent to the property at different times. One was shown an apartment as there were no other appointments. The other arrived when a previously scheduled appointment was due to arrive and was asked to return later. The person asked to return later was a member of the LGBTQ community. The City therefore deemed that discrimination occurred against a gay person. The real victim is the leasing agent, an LGBTQ advocate, who was accused of discriminating. When a government organization tests for discrimination, it needs to use the most advanced and clear-cut testing methods to weed out discrimination. When the threat of charges weighs in the balance, it is imperative that a scientific approach to testing is used. Tests should be done based upon proven testing procedures where as many variables as possible are the same. Testers should be asking for the same type of apartment, with the same desired price range, move-in date and other particulars. Blanton Turner uses regular customer service testing through third-party providers. To provide excellent customer service inherently requires managers to see past differences between people. Every person is treated with the utmost service when we’re at the top of our game.

Discrimination in the rental housing industry will only end when all industry professionals adopt an inclusionary attitude. To advance that effort, the industry must hire those individuals who express a blind passion to provide excellent customer service, train them in an empathetic manner so that they see through the eyes of individuals seeking, housing and test them thoroughly to make sure any evidence of discrimination is rooted out. By employing these methods, we will end the scourge of discrimination that still snakes its way through the industry, taking victims with it as it goes.