If a Fair Housing complaint is filed alleging that a prospective tenant was discriminated against, the burden of proof is on the landlord to show that the same criteria were used for all applicants? The story below conveys the importance of careful and detailed records.
” We had an applicant we did NOT turn down because of a companion animal but did turn her down because she owed a prior landlord about $2500. She filed the complaint with the Department of Justice claiming that she had been turned down because she had made her reasonable request to have a companion animal. The DOJ began an investigation and sent to us a list of questions that was several pages long. Although my inclination was to just call them and say “hey we denied her because she owed a prior landlord money” our attorney was adamant that you can cause yourself a lot of problems if you don’t thoroughly and completely comply with their request for information. The list of things they asked for included names and addresses phone numbers of all of our tenants, any reasonable requests we had had in the last year for accommodation for handicapped people (we had a few), how we had responded to those requests (we provided what they asked for in all cases) and if we had charged the tenant for any of the requests (we didn’t charge the tenant in any of the cases). They also wanted to complete list of all the people that we had turned down over the last year, I think, and why we had turned them down and what their names and phone numbers were. The response took about 40 hours worth of work to complete, consisted of 35 pages of documents which we had to generate. That is, these were all documents we had to create not just photocopy. One example, was a spreadsheet for all of our tenants with names addresses and phone numbers exported to an Xcel spreadsheet and that was then shrunk down to only a couple of pages. Then there were personal interviews with our staff members by an investigator for the DOJ. In the end we could not have hoped for more complete vindication than the 17 page letter from the DOJ provided.“
This is nothing to take lightly.