The Trainer: November 2018
Avoiding Discrimination Complaints When Dealing with Environmental Concerns
In this month’s feature, we explained how, if you’re not careful when dealing with environmental concerns like mold, lead paint, and bedbugs, you could trigger fair housing complaints from residents. Discrimination complaints may be based on the presence of hazardous substances, the way you handle reported problems, or the methods you used to remedy the offending situation. We gave you five rules to help you abide by fair housing law when dealing with environmental concerns.
If you’re motivated by safety and liability due to exposure to lead-based paint, it’s okay to tell families with young children only about vacancies in units where you know that any lead paint hazards have already been addressed. True or false?
One of your residents calls your office to complain every time your landscaping crew works near her building. She insists that chemicals used in conventional pesticides and herbicides are dangerous and that you should use only organic products. In her most recent call, she says she has developed a special allergy to these products and threatens to file a discrimination complaint unless you stop using them immediately. You should:
a. Ignore her; she’s probably just exaggerating the situation to get you to “go green.”
b. Stop using the products immediately; fair housing law requires you to grant her request as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.
c. Follow up in accordance with your standard procedures for handling reasonable accommodation requests.
ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
False. Even if motivated by concerns for children’s welfare, it’s unlawful to deny housing to families with children under 18. The law requires you to tell them about all vacancies that meet their needs—even units where lead-based paint hazards are not controlled. If the family chooses one of those units, then you must notify them of the risks of lead-based paint, but you may not refuse to let them live there because the family has children.
Correct answer: c
By claiming to have a disability-related need for a change to your standard procedures in maintaining the property, the resident has made a request for a reasonable accommodation. Follow up by applying your standard reasonable accommodation procedures to determine whether she has a disability—and a disability-related need for the requested accommodation.
Wrong answers explained:
a. Whatever your personal opinions about whether she really has a disability, you could face a discrimination claim unless you take her complaint seriously.
b. Fair housing law doesn’t require you to grant accommodation requests unless they’re made by or on behalf of an individual with a disability. To evaluate her request, you should follow your standard procedures to request documentation since neither her disability nor her disability-related need for the requested accommodation are obvious or apparent.