- Properties can keep impromptu, unscripted conversations with renters on track with support of team members and third parties that are fully trained on FHA and communication.
- Stick to FHA requirements, materials on qualifications, and your property’s policies–and focus on your property’s features instead of talking about a specific person or type of renter.
- Running an audit of the communication channels and teams that connect with renters can help you map out a succinct strategy for training, reviewing and improving your current compliance processes.
Once a renter reaches out to start those one-on-one conversations with your property team, you’ve entered the home stretch. This is where renters confirm final questions, decide to tour, learn about policies and make the final decision to sign a lease. In each interaction, you are taking the next step toward potentially welcoming them as a new resident, and it’s often the most critical phase in their decision process to signing a new lease.
It’s also where Fair Housing requirements are most critical, and when it’s easy to identify missteps. In fact, rental-related housing discrimination complaints are the most common type of housing discrimination complaint filed. This is due to the simplicity and frequency of rental transactions compared to buying a home.
These final conversations are often unscripted, take place during busy times and happen over a variety of channels (phone, email, chat). Everyone who interacts on behalf of your property has a special role in creating the best experience for the renter possible. Your team can really shine by providing a welcoming, equitable environment.
Properties can keep the conversations on track with support of team members and third parties that are well-trained on FHA guidelines and communication. Let’s get into common FHA missteps, and how to secure your property’s communications in the future.
Create guidelines for your team to navigate conversations with renters
Protected classes and topics to avoid are major details to consider when making sure your conversations with renters are FHA compliant. Going into one-on-one interactions without proper guidance could quickly get you into murky territory. That’s why it’s important to make sure your entire team and vendors who communicate with renters on your behalf are up to date on the latest FHA requirements both locally and nationally.
At Rent., we run extensive trainings to make sure our own renter-facing staff are fully supported before going out into the field. Here are a few key considerations you should keep in mind when interacting with renter prospects:
Avoid common pitfalls when talking about protected classes.
Small talk between renters and property teams can make a big impact. With the proper training, your team can more easily navigate conversations and understand what topics, questions, and phrases to avoid.
When talking with potential renters, focus on the property’s features, rather than the residents. Steer clear of words and phrases that have been associated with discrimination in the past, such as “restricted,” “able-bodied,” “exclusive,” “limited,” etc. And avoid sharing personal opinions and assumptions relating to protected classes (race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status).
For example, questions like, “How many kids do you have?” that are often part of polite conversation in other settings are restricted by Fair Housing to protect renters from discrimination related to family status.
Answer questions with equity in mind.
Let the renter come to you for questions on sensitive topics instead of prompting discussions about family status, disabilities, criminal background, credit score, service, therapy, or emotional support animals.
Prospects may be curious about the types of people in your community, and other subjects related to protected classes. Even if they edge into risky topics, you can guide the conversation and offer help with the FHA in mind.
For example: If a prospect asks, “Are there a lot of kids here and are families welcome in this community?” the protected class of family status is a key topic of this question.
A response focused on the community itself and not the renters, and reinforcing that your community is welcoming would be most appropriate in this situation. “We have an onsite playground, community cooking areas, a pool, and a variety of other features that residents enjoy. Absolutely anyone who qualifies is welcome in the community.”
Where and how one-on-one conversations spark
The next step in securing your conversations is making sure all touchpoints and teams are clearly aligned with FHA best practices. One way to do this is through a review of your communication channels–both automated and from property team member-to-renter.
Refresh your current channels
You can run an audit of your current communication channels to see where it may be beneficial to monitor FHA compliance and opportunities for improvement. Here are few common communication channels renters engage with during the final decision stage:
- Texting: both automated and from leasing team to renter
- Onsite phone calls: renter inquiries or site team follow-ups
- Emails: autoresponders to a renter’s lead submission or answers to inquiries
- Webchat on the property site: whether automated or operated by live agents
- Third party call center service: voice AI, call centers, leasing support teams
- Lead forms and discovery questions for lead qualification
- Property social media accounts
Support your renter-facing teams
Empower all teams that spark conversations with renters by ensuring that you have the support, training and review processes in place to mitigate challenges and confidently guide conversations. A great way to start is by simply outlining the types of teams that connect with renters and reviewing your current processes. Here are a few common teams that work on behalf of the property:
- Teams who handle phone calls and text: coordinating onsite touring, the application process, and final questions
- Online support and those who follow up with prospects: exchange of application information, reaching out for final inquiries and virtual tours
- Onsite teams and those hosting tours: touring and initial appointment, follow-up visits, and application materials
Think about how the FHA plays into training, reviews and improvements within your teams. FHA compliance may be part of the initial training process, but there are other great ways to incorporate best practices and help clarify the message. For example: creating scripts or guides for FHA-compliant conversations, doing quarterly or annual discussions on new FHA policies, or even attending FHA-based webinars and events as a team can help keep everyone up to date.
Everyone has a role in protecting property communications
The sheer number of channels properties use to connect with renters is a challenge but has also opened up resources and opportunities. Everyone who interacts with a renter on behalf of your property is a partner in ensuring equitable treatment. They have a part in elevating the renter experience. Even if your team is fully aligned on FHA compliance, it’s imperative to make sure all support teams or third parties are fully trained on FHA and treat prospects with the same care that your onsite team would. Clear guidelines and expectations will yield better results.