Fair Housing: Prepare Your Staff To Handle Fair Housing Testers

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tip: Doing your own internal ‘testing’ can help your staff be ready for the real thing

Thanks to generous funding, Fair Housing testers (also known as shoppers) are out in full force, trying to catch you and your staff at discriminatory housing practices. So before a tester gets you into hot water, costing your property huge fines and years of legal headaches, make sure you’re ready for Fair Housing scrutiny.

Heads up: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded a whopping $38.3 million to 95 Fair Housing organizations and non-profit agencies to fight housing discrimination and ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The largest chunk of that funding -- $24.7 million -- went toward Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grants, which mainly fund "testing" activities.

How Testing/Shopping Works

A private Fair Housing organization enlists paid or volunteer individuals to masquerade as housing applicants, according to the Fair Housing Institute (FHI). For example, to test whether a property discriminates against African Americans, the organization would have both a black tester and a white tester contact the property to inquire about available housing.

Both testers would be "comparable," meaning they would have similar ages, the same gender, and similar economic and family circumstances, the FHI states. If the property staffers give each tester different answers about unit availability, assistance levels, leasing information, or other key factors, the Fair Housing agency could send up the alarm for potential discriminatory practices.

"Shopping and testing are very much allowed under the law, as well as hidden video and/or voice recordings of the shopping/testing experience," warns Amanda Atkins, owner of Atkins...


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