Written By Ellen Clark, Grace Hill
Social media is a great tool for marketing in the multifamily industry to help build strong connections and community with your customers, but did you know Fair Housing laws apply?
When you share information in print or in person you may be aware of the Fair Housing issues, but are you watching all of your social media posts as closely?
The same rules apply. You are responsible for complying with anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, no matter what form of communication you are using.
Do you display the equal housing opportunity logo on your social media posts?
Last year, ProPublica revealed that Facebook advertisers could target housing ads to whites only.
After that report, Facebook said it had built a system to spot and reject discriminatory ads. However, ProPublica recently retested and found lapses in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.
Here is what ProPublica said late last year, “Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.
“All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Every single ad was approved within minutes.
How is this relevant to property management companies?
Discrimination in advertising is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to create, publish or distribute housing ads that discriminate, limit or deny equal access to housing because of membership in any federally protected class. But “advertising” doesn’t just apply to traditional advertising, such as newspaper and Internet ads, banners and signs, and commercials.
Social media communications are often considered advertisements.
5 ways to comply with Fair Housing on social media
Here are some tips to help ensure your employees use social media in a way that complies with fair housing law.
No. 1 – Train everyone in Fair Housing
- Before being given access to your social media accounts, each person should complete fair housing training and acknowledge your company’s policies and procedures. Do the same for any agency or service that has access to your social media. When sharing images, show males and females, people of different races, people with disabilities, a variety of ages, and families with and without children in order to comply with fair housing laws.
No. 2 – Show diversity in images
- Consider all federal, state, and locally protected classes. For example, show males and females, people of different races, people with disabilities, a variety of ages, and families with and without children. Show diversity when using avatars, animated characters, and illustrations, too.
No. 3 – Use welcoming language
- Social media messages must not position your community as more or less suitable for someone based on membership in a protected class. Avoid things like racial or ethnic terms, references to religion, exclusions based on disability, and limitations based on familial status. A good rule of thumb is to describe the community, not the people.
No. 4 – Designate a point person to regularly review all social media posts
- Reviews should look for words or images that discriminate, limit or deny equal access to your community based on membership in any federally, state or locally protected class. Also look for posts in which prospective or current residents indicate they feel they’ve been treated unfairly, don’t feel welcome in your community, or feel they are being discouraged from living in your community.
No. 5 – Display the Equal Housing Opportunity Logo
- Always show the Equal Housing Opportunity slogan, logo or statement on your social media pages and on your website.
Make sure employees understand that it is important to be just as mindful of fair housing laws when sharing information and interacting with customers online as it is when sharing information and interacting in print and in person.
The same rules apply. They are responsible for complying with anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, no matter what form of communication they are using.
For more information Grace Hill has a mini-training course on this issue that covers:
- How to apply the FHA’s rules about discrimination in advertising to social media posts.
- How to develop policies and procedures to help social media posts comply with the FHA.
- Guidance for using information customers post on social media without violating the FHA.
- Strategies to avoid and handle problematic social media posts in ways that comply with the FHA.
About the Author: Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill. Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.
About Grace Hill: 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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