In the course of proving our blamelessness in a discrimination claim, we found that we were as strong of a company as we had set out to become. We were very glad that we had implemented our policies and worked our procedures.
When we received notice in the mail that a discrimination claim had been filed against our company, my first thought was a question: “How much is this going to cost me”? All I had ever heard about discrimination claims was that the claims cost a lot of money to defend.
I was shocked and a little shaken. A complaint had also been filed with the Better Business Bureau. The claim was made by a past tenant from whom we had deducted cost of damages from security deposit. The claim was made that we had deducted damages because of race. This is of course not something our company has ever done, or would ever do.
While it was a long and drawn out situation to unravel, it turned out that it really wasn’t that hard to defend and an attorney was not needed. In the mail with the notice, came a list of requests from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) case worker. We had to produce supporting evidence that showed without doubt that no discrimination had occurred. By the time we had compiled all of the evidence we had, it cost $32.00, by weight, to mail overnight to assure package delivery would be received by HUD in advance of the deadline. Even though we answered all questions on the check list, we were not in the clear just yet.
HUD delved into our files at will and at random. They did not come to our office, but we had to supply a list of contact information for past and current tenants, and past and current owners, who were called and questioned by HUD. Additional explanations had to be given regarding our policy and procedures. It is fortunate and by design that we had taken multiple photos of the condition of the house prior to this tenant moving in, kept every repair invoice with receipt for materials, and documented the house with move-out photos upon surrender by the tenant. We do this with every property we manage. It can be a cumbersome task to keep these kind of records, and to go through these processes, but it is a very important part of good property management.
It was a frivolous claim that turned our office upside down, in a sense, for more than 1 year. The HUD case manager found the discrimination claim filed against us to be one with “no cause”. The BBB claim went away by reason of like defense.
The moral of the story is this: In residential sales you have heard that it’s all about “location, location, location”. In property management, it is more about “documentation, documentation, documentation”.
Until next time,