Multifamily Florida - Summer 2020 - 13

LEGAL UPDATE

Apartment Communities Targeted
in Lawsuits
NUMEROUS APARTMENT COMMUNITIES I N

Criminal History
Numerous lawsuits have been filed in Florida alleging
that an individual who is a convicted felon called an
apartment community to inquire about renting. The
caller disclosed his felony conviction background and,
he claims, the apartment community staff stated over
the phone that his criminal background would result in
an automatic denial of the application.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) has issued guidance (available on
the hud.gov website) regarding how criminal screening
policies could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act,
under what is known as disparate impact.
A disparate impact results from policies that have
a discriminatory effect, even if the discrimination is
unintended. According to HUD, certain policies, such
as blanket policies against any individual with a criminal
background, may negatively impact certain races and,
therefore, have a disparate impact.
FAA recommends that members:
*	 Review current policies related to criminal
screening to determine whether any changes
should be made to avoid disparate impact liability.
*	 Be sure that all staff members who answer the
phone are properly trained.
*	 Contact an attorney or in-house legal counsel for
guidance and advice.
For more information:
www.naahq.org/advocacy/policy-issues/
criminal-screening-residents
www.hud.gov/sites/documents/HUD_
OGCGUIDAPPFHASTANDCR.PDF

Website Accessibility
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA), consumer-facing websites must provide
accommodations so people with vision or hearing
disabilities can access the information on the sites. In
recent years, the apartment management industry - as
well as many other industries - has been targeted by
what are known as "drive-by" or "surf-by" lawsuits
seeking court-ordered remediation of the websites,
attorneys' fees, and monetary compensation. These
lawsuits may also claim that the lack of accessible
housing websites exists as a barrier to equal housing
opportunities, thus violating the Fair Housing Act.
To protect against potential liability, FAA
recommends that members:
*	 Review their websites to ensure compliance with
ADA requirements.
*	 Contact their website provider for assistance
identifying ADA compliance issues.
*	 Have a digital accessibility consultant perform a
website audit to ensure the content and coding
complies with ADA requirements.
*	 Update websites as recommended by the audit to
ensure compliance.
For more information:
www.naahq.org/operation-solutions/
legal-compliance-resources

FA A H Q.O R G

Florida have been targets of lawsuits and demand letters
claiming discrimination based on criminal history or inaccessible websites. Landlord/tenant attorneys estimate that
nearly 200 demand letters have been served on apartment
communities from 2019 through mid-May of 2020, many
from fair-housing activists seeking financial settlements.
The Florida Apartment Association and the National
Apartment Association have issued advisories to make
members aware of these lawsuits and to encourage them
to take steps to avoid becoming party to a lawsuit. Please
note: This should be considered information only and
does not constitute legal advice. FAA recommends that
members consult an attorney with specific legal questions.

13


http://www.hud.gov http://www.naahq.org/advocacy/policy-issues/criminal-screening-residents http://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/HUD_OGCGUIDAPPFHASTANDCR.PDF http://www.naahq.org/operation-solutions/legal-compliance-resources

Multifamily Florida - Summer 2020

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Multifamily Florida - Summer 2020 - Cover3
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