How Your Terms, Conditions Or Privileges Could Mean Discrimination

The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on the issue of how your terms, conditions or privileges you provide prospective tenants and existing tenants could be discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

You must treat all prospects and tenants in a consistent way in how you use terms, conditions or privileges to avoid discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for buying or renting housing is a little less direct than other illegal practices, such as an outright refusal to rent or sell to an individual.

But it is just as illegal.

Requiring higher security deposits from families with children and demanding higher application fees from minorities are examples of discrimination in terms, conditions, or privileges. These practices violate fair housing laws.

To avoid discrimination in terms, conditions or privileges, treat all prospects and residents fairly and consistently.

3 ways in leasing to be consistent and avoid discrimination

  • If you require a photo ID from prospects to tour your community, be sure to get one from every prospect. No matter how non-threatening someone appears, it is important to require the same thing from all prospects.

  • If a prospect’s rental application is denied, follow-up with them both verbally and in writing. Follow this exact procedure for every application that is denied.

  • If you have a prospect who does not meet your income requirements but you let her sign a lease by pre-paying six months’ rent, you should offer this option to other prospects in a similar situation.

3 ways in maintenance to be consistent and avoid discrimination

  • If you charge one resident for a lock change, you should charge all residents the same amount for the same service.

  • Respond to service requests in the order in which they were received.

  • Faster response to emergencies is expected, but be sure to clearly define and document what constitutes an emergency service request. Document all correspondence with residents in your records.

If you make an exception to any policy or procedure, make sure you provide the same information and options to all prospects and residents who are in the same situation.

Being consistent in how you apply policies and procedures will help you make a habit of treating all current and future residents fairly and equally. This will help you comply with the FHA, but just as importantly, it will create a more welcoming atmosphere for all people who meet your qualifications and wish to live in your community.

Summary on consistency and discrimination

The Fair Housing Act is intended to prevent housing discrimination.

The Fair Housing Act describes a number of illegal practices relating to housing discrimination. One of these is discrimination in terms, conditions, or privileges.

Discrimination is when a person, or a group, is treated unfairly or differently than others for a reason related to their membership in a certain category or group. In other words, if someone is treated in a different way than someone else because of the color of their skin, their age, their nationality, their ability to speak English (to name just a few) they are being discriminated against.

A person does not need to be harmed to have been discriminated against—just treated differently.


Reprinted by Permission. Source: Rental Housing Journal. ©2018 Professional Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved. Email: Visit or call (503) 221-1260

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill. Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.

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