Landlords, how closely do you monitor your property managers? Do you allow them to run your properties however they see fit, or do you run a tighter ship? When you realize that a property owner is often liable for the actions taken by those acting on his or her behalf, you may want to consider keeping a closer eye on your manager.
For example, one rental property owner was surprised to hear that her long-time property manager had been “protecting the property” by rejecting lease applicants with children. This action is in violation of federal fair housing laws, which prohibit discrimination against applicants on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. Even through the property manager was acting on her own, the building owner still has the responsibility to supervise her staff and prevent any discriminatory actions from taking place.
In a related case, an apartment property manager was found to be turning on the lawn sprinklers whenever children who lived in the complex were playing outside. By his actions, he was creating a hostile environment for the families with children, who were forced to keep the kids inside. If a tenant complained to the local fair housing agency, the landlord could end up as the target of an investigation.
A third example is the property owner who received a letter from a tenant, complaining about the resident manager. The tenant said the male manager was too friendly with her teenage daughter, and was frequently seen near the apartment when the girl was home alone. This behavior, which also creates a hostile environment is often classified as sexual harassment—and is also illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act. Even though no actual inappropriate actions had yet been taken, the daughter’s discomfort is significant enough to warrant action by the property owner.
In many cases, rental property owners are just a complaint away from a discrimination lawsuit—whether or not they are aware of the illegal activities of their property managers. The best bet is to keep a close eye on what’s going on at your properties. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for every decision or action by a property manager that affects your tenants.