Disparate Impact – Stop with the Panic Bells, Already!

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united-states-of-america-signAs you likely are aware, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down its ruling this week, affirming the validity of Disparate Impact Theory in Fair Housing cases. Immediately, some of my colleagues in the property management industry began ringing the panic bells. “This will change everything!” No, it won’t.

This is Nothing New!

HUD and DOJ have been using Disparate Impact Theory to prove fair housing cases for 40 years! All this SCOTUS decision did, was to uphold policies, rules, and practices that were already in place. This changes nothing. It simply affirms what has been the case for decades.

 

Let’s not panic, here. As housing providers, we should be leading the way as advocates for equal opportunity in housing, not ringing alarm bells over something we know little about (most of us), just because some of our colleagues are in panic mode.

 

For as long as I’ve been in this business, disparate impact has been a ‘thing.’ There are two ways to prove a fair housing case. You can either prove intention (very difficult!), or you can prove disparate impact.  It’s quite rare, these days, when you will hear a housing provider say something like, “We don’t rent to your kind!”  A statement like that would be intentional discrimination, and easily proven as such. In today’s climate, you’re much more likely to see discrimination delivered with a smile, a handshake, and a pat on the back… “We just rented that unit, but I think you’d like the place down the street…”

 

Before you panic over this SCOTUS decision, please take a few moments to study the Mount Holly case (never decided by SCOTUS – it settled), and the Texas case on which SCOTUS based its decision.  Then, read this memo by HUD and DOJ, so that you have a better understanding of how Disparate Impact theory actually works.

 

And, remember…this is not new.

 

As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Thanks for reading!

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Service Animals, Companion Animals, Assistance Animals…Oh My!

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Service_AnimalsAn open letter to the Property Management community…

As a property manager myself, I certainly understand and sympathize with your concerns around the topic of service animals. There still seems to be a great deal of confusion in the industry over which laws apply, in this area. In a blog post a few years back, I discussed the difference between the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA). It’s important to remember that these are two different laws, with entirely different applications. ADA applies to public accommodations only – not housing. The FFHA, however, applies to housing. If you’re not clear on the differences, please take a few moments to read that blog post. It contains links to important HUD documents that explain the differences between the two laws, particularly in the area of service/assistance animals.

 

In very brief summary, ADA holds quite a narrow definition of “Service Animal.” For purposes of ADA, a Service Animal is a trained dog (and, in some cases, a miniature horse) – one that is specifically trained to perform a task to aid a person with a disability. The FFHA, on the other hand, takes a much broader view. The terms “service animal,” “therapy animal,” “comfort animal,” “companion animal,” “assistance animal…” all mean the same thing, under fair housing law. (For purposes of simplicity from this point forward, I’ll collectively refer to these animals as “Service Animals.”) Essentially ANY animal (or animals) who aids a person with a disability, in some way, to cope with the outcomes of that disability is considered a Service Animal under the FFHA. Furthermore, those animals do not have to be trained to perform a specific task. Sometimes, their ‘job’ is simply to exist! There is a great deal of scientific evidence out there to support the fact that animals are beneficial to our health. This concept is embraced by the FFHA.   Continue reading

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Summer Newsletter for Tenants

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Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border

Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border

Tenant Newsletters are a great way to keep your renters informed, and remind them of the routine maintenance tasks for which they’re responsible.

Yet, year after year, many of us either crank out well-worn repeats of earlier newsletters, or worse, ‘stock’ newsletters written by an outside organization. And, some of us simply postpone the task until it’s a moot point. In talking with property managers all over the country, I hear more and more frequently their frustration over tenants not reading the newsletter, when it finally does reach their in-box.

 

How can we better communicate these important messages?  

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Additional Insured vs. Additional Interest

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This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I’ve been chasing insurance companies for the better part of the last two weeks, struggling to get proper evidence of coverage for my owner/clients’ properties. What continues to surprise me, is the fact that the insurance companies often play as though they don’t understand what we want. simple-handshake

In part, our property management agreement (PMA) states,

“LIABILITY INSURANCE – Owner shall obtain and keep in force adequate insurance against damage and against liability for loss, damage, or injury to property or persons which might arise out of the occupancy, management operation, or maintenance of the Premises. Liability insurance shall be adequate to protect the interest of both Owner and Agent.  Owner shall furnish Agent with proof of fire insurance policies in force and shall obtain adequate vandalism coverage for the Premises.  The deductible required under all such insurance policies shall be Owner’s expense. Owner agrees to name Agent as an “additional insured” on its liability and fire insurance policy, and furnish Agent with certificates evidencing such insurance within ten (10) days of the execution of this Agreement. In no event will such liability coverage be less than $500,000 in value. Said policies shall provide that notice of default or cancellation shall be sent to Agent as well as to Owner, and shall require a minimum of ten (10) days’ written notice to Agent before any cancellation of or changes to said policies.”

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Converting Rentals to 55+ Status (HOPA)

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seniorsThe Reader’s Digest version of this post, for those who prefer that kind of thing, is “No.” Just no. Only in very rare cases, can you convert an existing rental property from a traditional residential rental (welcoming families with children), to a 55+ property, under the exemptions contained in the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA).

A property manager recently asked me whether her client could declare the client’s duplex a “55+ Community,” ‘since it’s a multifamily property.’

First, I suggested he talk to his lawyer, or Silver State Fair Housing Council. Then, “A duplex isn’t a ‘multifamily’ property. That term generally applies to 4+ units. Since this property is not part of a larger ‘association’ of similar properties who’ve formed an association… and, since there are no governing documents for your client’s property that address any kind of HOPA exemption, no. No, your client can’t do that.”  Continue reading

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Updated Class Schedule for Reno NV

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Wandbild_eines_SeiltänzersIn response to numerous requests for a CE class in Property Management, I’m pleased to announce we’ve just scheduled “Risk Reduction Strategies for Property Managers” to be held in Reno on November 13th. Ticor Academy, a division of Ticor Title is sponsoring the course. (Thanks Ticor Team!) Please contact Ticor Academy for more information and registration. General details of the class are here.

Hope to see you in November!

Warm regards,

Judy

 

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Marketing Property Management Services

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FanfareIf you’ve been in this business for a while, you’ve probably noticed how competitive property management has become! It seems that everyone is a Property Manager! It’s a much bigger challenge than it used to be, to attract and keep a good client base. A solid marketing campaign, consistently applied, will set you apart from your competition.

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Here are a few proven tips…

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Residential Property Maintenance – Systems and Procedures

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HomeRepairAs property managers, one of our most important responsibilities is to oversee the maintenance and repair of the homes we manage. In fact, most states’ laws address this, in one form or another. For example, Nevada law, in its Property Management licensing section, states:

NRS 645.019  “Property management” defined.  “Property management” means the physical, administrative or financial maintenance and management of real property, or the supervision of such activities for a fee, commission or other compensation or valuable consideration, pursuant to a property management agreement.
(Added to NRS by 1997, 954; A 2003, 932)  (Emphasis added)

Despite  guidance of both law and “common sense,” too often, our responsibility for overseeing the physical maintenance of the properties we manage is handled in a reactive, rather than proactive, manner. We wait for something to break, as opposed to thinking ahead and planning for maintenance and repair, before things go wrong. In upcoming posts, we’ll explore residential property maintenance, from the property manager’s perspective.   Continue reading

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Client Retention – Property Management Style

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Dog

With so many of our owner/clients falling into the role of Landlord by chance, rather than by choice in the last few years, it’s no wonder we’re facing challenges gaining their loyalty. Often times, the rental property owner doesn’t have the slightest clue how to manage such an investment. In many cases, the property wasn’t originally purchased as a rental. The investment strategy, if one exists at all, is vague and constantly shifting.

 

A single expense, a “bad” tenant, or a month without income, and the “Accidental Landlord” panics. “How am I going to make my mortgage payment?” “I can’t afford to pay for that!” Does this sound familiar? Before you realize what’s happening, this property owner is moving on to what he perceives as greener pastures, with another property manager.

 

Gaining client loyalty is one of the greatest tests of a property manager. Without that loyalty, we cannot succeed. How can we, as professional property managers, create an environment in which the owner/client trusts us enough to remain loyal, even when management difficulties arise?

 

CB026637It starts before the contract is signed…   Continue reading

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When Saving Time Can Cost You Time (and Money!)

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As successful property managers, we quickly learn the importance of streamlining our policies and procedures, by establishing methods to save both time and effort. The profit margin in this business is tight, and if we fail to employ standardization and time-saving strategies, we’ll never succeed. I’ve noticed the average burnout time for most new property managers seems to be about 2 years. That’s how long it takes to realize it’s not a money-making business, unless we have policies and procedures in place that make the job doable.

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