Roommate Matching Trends
The breakout session “We’re Student Housing, We’re Different!” presented by Nadeen Green, Fair Housing Lady, ForRentUniversity.com; and her special guest Alexandra Jackiw, CPM, President, Milhaus Management; during the 2017 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exposition, took the form of a faux radio show. During this session attendees (the “live” studio audience) had opportunities to ask questions relative to fair housing and the unique student housing market.
In a post-broadcast interview with Green and Jackiw, they expanded on their comments made during the show.
Jackiw said that one interesting discussion that ensued was about roommate matching. There were specific concerns about matching roommates of different genders because of fair housing violation concerns. Many were surprised when they heard Green explain that if living arrangements include kitchen or bathroom sharing, it is perfectly acceptable to designate those apartment homes as male-only or female-only without violating the Fair Housing Act as applied to gender discrimination. Additionally, it was suggested that companies not engage in matching roommates themselves, but rather that they contract that service to a third-party provider so that they are not embroiled in roommate-matching issues and resolutions that often arise.
Jackiw also shared her company’s policy for roommate matching, explaining that students rooming together are required to identify who their roommates will be and that all must be present when they apply for an apartment and when they sign the lease. That is a practical tip that student housing providers may wish to consider.
Green was presented with an interesting question on the ever-popular topic of service animals. What is a student housing provider to do when an international student makes a request to have a service animal, and the verification of disability and need comes from a doctor in another country? And what if that verification is not in English?
The conclusion was that a verification letter not written in English is insufficient; however, even if the letter was written in English, it is unlikely that the doctor (or other verifier) would be a “reliable source” upon which the student housing provider must rely.
In most cases, such a verifier would not be familiar with the concept of reasonable accommodations because they arise under U.S. fair housing laws. Additionally, requiring the international student to obtain a verification from a U.S. source does not put an undue burden on that student. Therefore, requiring verification from a credible U.S. source would likely be acceptable