MReport September 2022

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20 | M R EP O RT FEATURE Fair Housing Act Compliance in Marketing Offering a welcoming and nondiscriminatory environment to every renter by adhering to the Fair Housing Act will safeguard your property's marketing efforts today and attract renters down the line. By Rachel Richardson C losing the gap between leads and new leases comes down to the details, and compliance with the Fair Housing Act is a major part of that. Offering a welcoming and nondiscriminatory envi- ronment to every renter will safeguard your property's marketing efforts today and continue to attract qualified renters in the future. Properties lose much more than a prospective renter when they are not compliant with Fair Housing Act regulations, and complaints may be more common than you think. According to the National Fair Housing Alliance 2021 Fair Housing Trends Report, 20,860 rental housing discrimina- tion complaints were filed in 2020 alone. Of all housing discrimina- tion complaints that were filed, rental-related complaints were the most frequent. This is because renting is the most frequent type of housing transaction. The simplicity of rental transactions compared to home buying and other transactions can often make it easier to pinpoint discrimination. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) de- fines the Fair Housing Act as pro- tecting "people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home," and prohibits making, printing, or publishing "any notice statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any prefer- ence, limitation, or discrimination." Although broadly understood by multifamily housing profes- sionals, the Fair Housing Act filters through every detail of your property's interaction with renters. If those details are off, all the work you have done to build a strong presence through your property marketing and secure a reputation of fairness is at risk. We will cover common areas that are overlooked and how properties can secure their mar- keting and advertising at every stage in the renter journey. Routinely Refresh Your Awareness of Protected Classes T here are seven protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to show a preference, alter housing terms, or refuse to accommodate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. While these seven are nationally held regulations, it is also critical to understand the protected classes within your local jurisdiction. Many state laws have broader protections for classes such as source of income, marital status, and sexual orientation. The messaging, imagery, and advertising targeting you select for your community's marketing initiatives are all subject to the FHA and local fair housing laws or regulations. It is important to secure each tactic by understand- ing guidelines and eliminating ways that a property may unin- tentionally breach these laws and regulations. Fair Messaging and Property Descriptions D o not get your property into a bind with property de- scriptions that could be discrimi- natory. One way to do this is by focusing on why your property is ideal for renters, not who your ideal renter is. Stay away from statements that could be seen as excluding someone in a protected class or showing a preference for a specific characteristic. For example, avoid language such as "perfect for families," and instead, share the facts of what your property offers and its amenities. Describe what makes your community family-friendly instead such as playgrounds, large yards, pool, common outdoor eating areas, or nearby parks. This approach lets you bring out the highlights of your community without excluding potential renters. Clarity in communication is also crucial here. Give consistent and truthful information to all parties interested in your proper- ty. This includes inquiries about your community's availability, price, amenities, and policies across all digital channels and within on-site communication. Inclusive Imagery and Design Details E quity also comes down to your property's visual pres- ence, whether that's the website, advertisements, on-site materials, welcome packets, email cam- paigns, social media, or listings. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) requires that all properties include an equal housing op- portunity "logo type, statement, or slogan" in advertisements. Also, if you use models in your advertisements, be sure to show diversity of residents within your chosen images to present an inclusive and welcoming environ- ment to all prospects.

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