This article was contributed by the Fair Housing Institute.
Why is documentation so important? How can it help you in the event of a fair housing complaint? What are some best practices that your company should be following now? This article provides a brief overview of the value of documentation as well as some tips to ensure you and your staff are protected.
Why Documentation is Important
Perhaps a question is raised regarding the availability of a unit. A prospect wants to view the two-bedroom unit that a friend said was available only hours before. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.
Another scenario that we frequently see is when there has been a change in staff or management. Consider this situation; a resident comes in wanting to know what has been done regarding a complaint they lodged weeks ago with the prior manager. You look in the resident’s file and find nothing. Maybe something had been done, but now you have no documentation or proof to address the situation.
Proper documentation will give your staff the information they need to provide a thorough explanation and state the facts. Without this, you are open to a possible fair housing complaint.
A Fair Housing Complaint – Now What?
These brief examples highlight how important documentation is. Every employee needs to be documenting every interaction they have with both existing and prospective residents. Along with this, there needs to be a regular audit completed to ensure that policies and procedures are being followed.
Documentation – Tips and Best Practices
Here are some basic guidelines that aid in proper and consistent documentation:
Company Forms– Many companies use specific forms to document situations and complaints. Using these forms is often preferable over merely writing a narrative because the forms prompt the employee to include all relevant and essential information describing exactly what took place.
Action Documentation – There are many cases when the initial incident is documented, but there’s no record of what was done to remedy the situation. Whether it was something as simple as a quick phone call or note, this all needs to be documented with copies of any written correspondence being placed in the appropriate file.
Document Storage – Another issue is where to keep such documents. Many companies keep an incident report in a resident’s file. One problem is if the incident includes several residents. Whose file do you keep it in? The answer is: a copy should be kept in all involved residents’ files, as should the notations on the resulting actions.
Documentation Training – Proper and thorough documentation is a topic on which nearly all companies should train. To review the performance of your office, we recommend that if you know of an incident that occurred during the past six months, go back and review the documentation that resulted. Analyze whether it was accurate, thorough, used the proper forms, and was retained in the appropriate files. If you determine that a policy or procedure wasn’t followed, use this as an opportunity for additional staff training.
In summary, documentation isn’t just important, it is essential. Not only does it provide your staff with the tools they need to better perform their jobs, but it is also irreplaceable if confronted with a fair housing complaint.