Fair Housing Hot Topics: As Our World Changes, So Does Application of the Laws
Affordable housing must be aware of Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
Another area getting much attention is Limited English Proficiency (LEP), which is aimed at attempting to keep communication means open for applicants or residents who don’t speak English. Affordable housing providers must provide “meaningful access” to all programs and services and be able to communicate that in a way that doesn’t discriminate against those aforementioned residents and applicants.
According to Moore, unlike conventional properties, affordable communities are required to have an LEP plan. If the general demographic of the community is non-English speaking, the property has an obligation to provide LEP assistance.
“If there is a high concentration of people who don’t speak English, they have to put together an LEP plan,” he said. “Most times, they’ll come in with a family member to translate. But if someone comes in and they can’t speak English, you have to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to the person regardless of the language he or she speaks.”
Moore said a property can satisfy the regulation by simply reaching out for assistance to a community program that assists the demographic. HUD.gov and community resources are available to help landlords provide LEP assistance.
Because Moore doesn’t see the influx of non-English speaking residents decreasing any time soon, he says landlords will need to adapt and provide meaningful access to accommodate Fair Housing laws.
“Landlords must assess their ability to communicate the information to non-English speakers or people who have disabilities that impact their ability to communicate,” he said. “That’s what the expectation is and I think that’s changing things.”
Landlords should maintain strict Fair Housing compliance policies and document
“You have to review your policies and get your people training,” he said. “What gets you in trouble is you have that one policy that violates the law. People aren’t looking at their policies and seeing where they need to make a change. Training and reviewing those policies is crucial today.”
It’s also the age-old practice of documenting when a potential Fair Housing issue arises. Properties that must defend claims and don’t have written verification of a request for accommodation or other documentation can get into hot water fast.
“If you have ever been involved in litigation, juries and judges and the government-like documents,” Moore said. “If you don’t have that document, it didn’t happen. If you don’t have that document, it’s ‘he said, she said’. Now we’re judging credibility.”
Housing providers should be aware of these and other changes in Fair Housing laws, and maintain strict policies of compliance to avoid red tape.
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