Discrimination & Testing with Jamie Williamson
Jamie : Thank you very much. It’s been a long time since I have been with all of you. I think I’ve had a couple of job changes. I can’t remember the last time I was at the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center as the executive director, and then I became a commissioner in Springfield, which covers the Springfield-Worcester area in 2010, and then in 2014, I was made the chair.
I say made because I had no desire to do the job. It was kind of an argument that I had with the governor’s office, and it kind of went like this, “Do you want to still continue to work?” Well, my fear was at that time, my mortgages really weren’t necessary to be paid, so said yes, but I do want to give you a little bit of a background.
I first want to say this. I have some materials over here that I think will be helpful for you, and this is the small version for those of you who still don’t wear glasses. Just kidding, really [laughter]. This is the other version, so whichever one is easier for you, they’re the same thing just so you that you know. I had my staff member make it and clearly he thought that I could still read this kind and I can’t. I brought the big ones because I know better in any case.
Let’s talk about fair housing, civil rights, and discrimination. I know oftentimes when I walk into a room and people see me, they get, “Not again.” I want to tell you that it’s not that bad. My goal here tonight, I think it’s really important for you to understand. I, too, am a landlord. I’ve got a lot of landlord stories that I could tell. I regale people with them anytime they want to hear about because they make people laugh, because it’s one of those things. Really, somebody did that to you. The answer is yes.
I will tell you when I started out and I tell them how I lost my toilet. A tenant actually stole my toilet, so if you don’t get that I understand landlords and believe you me, I do [laughter]. It’s important to realize that because oftentimes when you have organizations and governmental agencies, you want to know that the person who is doing the work actually understands the concerns of both parties.
In my case, being a landlord, I think it’s pretty clear that I understand what it’s like to be like a landlord. The fact that I’ve had a toilet stolen should tell you I really get it. If you look at me, you’ll also know that well, I’ve had my share of issues, and so, as a result, I get that side, too.
And so I think that I would consider myself a well-balanced person to oversee an agency about compliance because it’s important to understand that there always two sides to a story. Technically, I tell people there’s three sides. It’s a landlord story. It’s a tenant story. Then, there’s a real story. They’re always somewhere in between and mixed, so you got to try and figure out what’s going on. But from a compliance perspective, that’s what this is all about in terms of the civil rights laws that we have in Massachusetts, Chapter 151B, and then the anti-discrimination laws that we have for the federal government, which falls under Chapter 42 USC. I want you to understand that for me, this is truly a labor of love one, because there was there with somebody like me, talking to someone like you back when I first started because I wouldn’t have gone into the business. That’s all I got to say.
I tell people now that I think it’s really important that if you haven’t gotten into the business, that you should spend a day in housing court. I wish somebody had given me that advice because I spent a day in housing court, and again I thought wow! Anybody who does that, you got to have a lot of heart and soul.
I was in Marlborough yesterday and I was doing a landlord training for the Marlborough Landlord Association, and I think that it’s really important that you understand that from my perspective, these types of organizations are critical. They’re critical because they make sure that you have the information that you need to be able to be successful and to keep you out of harm’s way and to minimize risks in terms of finance as well as in terms of the law.
When I started out, I didn’t know that there are landlord associations, and once I found out that there were, I made sure that I spend as much time as I could in front of every landlord that I could to make sure that they understood that they had a friend, somebody who understood the law well enough without you having to pay a dime. That’s critically important. Are there lawyers in the room? Any lawyers?
Okay. I don’t mean to take any business away from you, but I can make these things somewhat simple, and I think it’s easy. For me, it’s important for you one, to understand that I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not giving you any legal advice. I have no legal advice o give. I can tell you about the experiences that I’ve had. I can tell you about the work that I do, and that’s what I’m going to do tonight.
In Marlborough, they asked me a couple of questions. What they wanted to do was they wanted to go over the Fair Housing Law so that make sure that everyone had a basic understanding of that. Are there people here who have not heard me speak before? Could you raise your hands?
Well, you are in for a surprise. No, just kidding. I’ve got nothing special to say other than spreading the good work of the MCAD and those who are fighting for civil rights in ensuring compliance in the state.
Let’s talk about who’s protected under the civil rights law. What I’m going to do is I’m going to make it easy because I know some of you may know some things. We’ll talk about federal and state. I’m going to combine them just in terms of getting answers from you. Then we’ll talk about which ones are federal, which ones are state, when we kind of go over altogether.
Is there anyone who knows who some of the protected categories might be? This is interactive now. Veterans.
Audience : [laughter] Veterans.
Jamie : Veterans, veterans.
Jamie: Handicapped and handicapped is the technical term from a legal perspective, people with disabilities. I, too, and I want you to know this, I too sometimes stumble over political correctness, trying to make sure I say everything right. I do my best and I think that’s all we can ask of people, so when you know that you’re doing something wrong, well that’s a different story, but when you do your best to try, you do that. Give me another one.
Audience: Government subsidy.
Jamie: Government subsidy. It’s actually source of income. Any type of source of income and then that generally applies to subsidies. In that case, and I want to just mention at this point that that one has no exemptions in the State of Massachusetts, and we’ll talk about exemptions in a minute. Some others?
Jamie: Family. Age, age except minors. I had families, race. I didn’t hear national origin. I threw that one just for good measure.
Audience: Sexual orientation.
Jamie: Gender. Sexual orientation. You think we’ve covered everything?
Jamie: There you go! That’s the one I was looking for. I am Kate, No, I’m am Jamie. No, Kate makes a lot of money. It’s not me. Yes, we’ve just recently added transgender, so gender identity, so if you have an issue with gender identity. Let’s just recap so that we know.
The first one we’re going to talk about is race and race actually came out of the Civil War in 1866. It was actually the very first civil rights law, federal law that we had in this country in 1866. It says under race, “There is no exemption for discrimination based on race.” Then we added in 1968, so in 1968, what happened in 1968 that gave us the fair housing act of 1968?
Female Audience 1: Martin Luther.
Jamie: Martin Luther. You were there yesterday [laughter]! Okay, this woman. I got a plant here, so she knows my stick because she was with me in Marlborough yesterday. But if you already saw me in Marlborough, what are you doing back here again today?
Female Audience 1: I didn’t realize that you were going to be in when I decided to come here tonight.
Jamie: Okay. But once you do I was going to be here, you could have stayed home. No, I’m kidding. I’m just kidding.
Jamie: Did you bring a friend? Is that what happened?
Female Audience 1: Yes, I did.
Jamie: All right, that’s very good because that’s what I told you. I did. See? People listen to me. That’s impressive. If you could talk to my staff, that would be wonderful. They never listen to me. I actually asked, when I was talking about landlord associations, I said again how very important they are so much so that if you are in the room, please remember the next time you come, bring a friend because there’s a lot of people who don’t know a lot of things, and that’s what makes it difficult for those of us who do because we get a bad reputation for being landlords who seem to want to take advantage of people.
I think that’s what they say these days, which is why it’s really important that we have people who are lobbying for the rights of landlords. I will tell you yesterday I had somebody in the audience who knows what I had thought about and it’s good that you’re working this other way because I’m a little bit more kind of guerilla warfare in this regard.
I had said what if you went to the legislature and told them that collectively you have over 10,000 units and everyone who owned one of those 10,000 units signed a document that said, “If you don’t do what we say, we are not going to provide any new open rental units for a period of two months.” What do you think that would do to the entire housing market?
You have a lot power, people. You really do, and it’s important that you exercise it and I think that you now have an organization that’s willing to help you get there. I always say start with the honey first but go guerilla when it doesn’t work out. There’s a way for you to think about what are some of the ways that you can let people know the kind of power that you have and the kind of numbers because numbers speak loudly. I know that because I’m one of those teeny, teeny-tiny government agencies that nobody wants to give money to, so that we can actually be effective. That makes it very difficult actually on your end because you have to sit and wait a very long time to get justice.
Back to our the who are protected. We said race, color, national origin, sex, which is gender, and religion. That’s the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Those were the protected categories.
They said in 1988, we still haven’t gone far enough. What happened in 1988?
Jamie: ADA. Now all of a sudden, we have the ADA to comply with. When they opened things up, they like to go in for the gust. They added family status and then they added handicapped. Then we have marital status, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status, and gender identity, and those are the state ones, the last ones that I called out. then public assistance and subsidies.
In the state protected categories, let me say this to you, protected categories again just so we know, very clear, “Marital status, sexual orientation, age, veteran status, public assistance, which is source of income, and gender identity.” Those are the ones that are under Chapter 151B.
That means that somebody who wants to file a complaint could not go to HUD and lodge a complaint because HUD does not cover that. It’s not their jurisdiction. The MCAD, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, on the other hand has jurisdiction over both the federal and the state. We can actually investigate cases from HUD as well as the state one. More often than not, you will find people who go to the MCAD to file a complaint.
In housing, you are not obliged to come to the MCAD. Unemployment is the only place that you can go first. That you have to go to the MCAD to file a complaint if you were going to file a complaint of discrimination based on unemployment issue. You have to go there first, and then we let you out to go to court after you’ve been there for 90 days.
In housing, you actually have the right to take it up, lift it and take it to another venue. Why does that matter? Because if you go to another venue, you may not go to the expert. You go into housing court, how many?
I’ve heard this, and I will tell you. I also like to tell you a little bit about some of the cases that I read as I go along, so I happened to be reading about a case and it was the complainant was filing a complaint against the housing authority. They said that the housing authority had actually taken the case to district court because they were not tenant friendly, and she did not win in district court. As a result, that their argument was that when they came to the MCAD, that we should recognize that they were being retaliatory because they went to a place where the overseers, so to speak, the judges were not friendly to their concerns.
In fact, it was really a novel kind of response to a complaint, and it made me think about that because oftentimes, every time I come in, there’s usually someone in front of me that tells me about the housing court and the fact that they happened to be very tenant friendly. It was interesting that I hear that, and then I start reading this, and I’ve never heard about this in district court. Has anybody ever filed a case in district court?
You had to deal with a complaint in district court? Were you successful? I’m assuming that you were the respondent, that you took the case to district court?
Male Audience 1: It got settled.
Jamie: It got settled before you went to court? Okay. We all started about mediation, right? Sandy, in the end, did you have a good experience in mediation or bad experience? It started out bad and ended up good?
Sandra: They were not [unintelligible 0:13:59].
Jamie: They were not. Okay. because mediation is also one of the things that I strongly suggest that you participate when given the opportunity. It goes a lot easier in any case.
Let’s take some of these extra protected categories and what they mean to you. Now I want to use the one that I think is the one that’s always very difficult. The number 1 complaint that we receive at the MCAD, based on all of those protected categories, what do you think it is?
Audience: Children. Race. Sexual discrimination [unintelligible 0:14:36].
Jamie: I still haven’t heard it yet. Disability. Disability is the number 1 complaint at the MCAD. That’s the number one complaint. It’s based on disability. Why in disability? It’s because it’s very tricky. Disability has a lot of components to it. It’s not just about somebody being disabled. It’s about their right to ask for a reasonable accommodation. Then it becomes whether or not the accommodation is reasonable, whether or not you engage in interactive dialogue, ultimately what you did, how long it took you to do it, whether or not you were obligated to do it. Those are a lot of things that happen in disability.
I want to spend a little bit of time on that because it’s the one, like I said, I think most people kind of get caught up in. They think they’re maybe doing the right thing and end up doing the wrong thing. I had a very dear friend of mine who had a disabled tenant. He was asking for things. The more he asked for, the more she gave because she just thought, “Well, I don’t want to get in trouble.” By the time she was done, she was in so far deep and he had her just get going to the point where I’m like, “Well, now you’re really in trouble. See, if you had done the right thing and had not treated him differently, you would not have gotten yourself in the hot water that you are in.”
The goal about disability and giving them a reasonable accommodation is to allow them to utilize the home as if they were able able-bodied, to give them access to the home as if they were able-bodied. When we think about disability, we want to say, “Is it important for you when we’re asking for this reasonable accommodation so that you can enjoy the property, as if you were able-bodied? We want to make things fair. That’s what the law is about.
Law is about creating a balanced, equal access to housing. It’s just that simple. It’s always trying to do. It’s not trying to take any more money out of your pockets. It’s not trying to trip you up. It’s just simply trying to ensure that people who have been marginalized by and large are given an opportunity to be made equal, to have an equal playing field.
With disability, there is a thing called reasonable accommodation. You have an obligation to entertain the reasonable accommodation request. What might a reasonable accommodation look like?
Jamie: That’s not reasonable to me. I don’t know how much money you make in landlording, but I don’t make that kind of money just buying ramps for people. But you got a lot extra money? You have a lot of extra money?
Jamie: Because I could use some. Maybe I could build a ramp. No, you don’t have to build a ramp.
Audience: Grab bars.
Jamie: Grab bars. You know about a grab-bar that in order to build a grab bar, you actually have to take the wall down and reinforce. That could be expensive. You have that kind of money to you? Just joking.
Female Audience 2: Quiet, peaceful.
Jamie: Well, everybody wants that. Let me help you out. here’s what we think what a reasonable accommodation. It is the suspension of a policy, practice, or procedure. For example, you have a policy. What might a policy be? No pets. Somebody comes in and they’re blind. What do they need? They need a seeing-eye dog. You’re saying, “I’m going to suspend the policy of no pets, which goes for everyone, except for a disabled person who will need that assistance animal in order to be able to utilize the home, in order to be able to have access to the home.”
Let me give you another one. Let’s say that you all have apartments where there is a laundry maybe in another building or in the basement where you have to have a separate key to get into and have access. One of the policies that you come up with is that no one is to use that unless they are a tenant of the property. But I have what they call a PCA, a personal care attendant, who would be the one that would do my laundry. Your policy says that my PCA can’t do my laundry. I asked you for a reasonable accommodation. I would like you to allow me to have my PCA use the laundry facilities because I can’t use them.” That’s a policy. Yes, Sandra.
Sandra: Can we go back to the dog for a second?
Jamie: Everybody wants to go back to that dog [laughter]. Okay.
Sandra: Some dogs, we have people here [unintelligible 0:18:39] There are certain dogs that were on the list. You have the dog that’s on the list, your insurance is in jeopardy. So, if I have someone who has a disability, and they say, “Well, I’m getting a rottweiler,” or, “I’m getting a German shepherd,” or, “I’m getting a pit bull.” The pit bulls seems to be the animal of choice.
Am I within my legal bounds to say, “You can have a service animal. You can’t just have a pit bull on my property because my insurance will be canceled,” or, “I have other people in the building who are terrified of pit bulls.” Am I out of bounds on that?
Jamie: Yes and no [laughter]. Yes and no, and then we throw in the interminable “it depends.” Let me say this about the law. I think it’s very important. One, the law has got a lot of murk in it, and I say that because there are some things that haven’t been tested. We put out some nice laws and then we wait for people to test them.
We are watching them on TV right now. Supreme Court just came up with somebody and somebody decided they weren’t going to marry somebody and they ended up in jail. Now they had the whole decision to be going in and out, does she deserve a reasonable accommodation, how do we do that. All these things that happen.
When we create laws, and the legislature create these great laws, they don’t actually think about them to the very end, the end use. It’s all theory until it becomes practical. All of a sudden, you now have a practical application matched with a theory and something doesn’t mix. Let me give you an example of that in this particular arena in Worcester housing.
If you were a landlord who had three units, you have the right to allow an elderly person for whom the presence of children would be a hardship to now you don’t have to rent to any other families with children. Now I say that again there are some nuance piece to it. One, you can’t bring your grandkids over and then say other kids are a hardship.
But somebody like me, and sometimes I’d be worried about being taped because I do have a nephew now, but I used to tell them I don’t like kids. I’ve never liked kids. When I was a kid, I didn’t like me. I just didn’t like kids. I’m just not a kid-friendly person. I don’t know. Kids look at me and they start screaming. Why would I like them? I don’t have any children.
I swear to God, my sister was born, she screamed. Now my nephew is born, he looks at me and he screams. I’m like, “What?” So I don’t really like kids. They make too much noise for me. They run around. They get messy, so I’m not kid friendly. I’m thinking now, I’m over the age of 40. Let’s just stop there, and I suspect if I do this right, I’m going to live awhile, so I could imagine being a lot more grouchy, which means my hatred for children is probably going to go up a lot more.
Now you have me as a tenant. I come in and I tell you, “Look, I’m 86 years old. I don’t want no kids around here. Their very presence disturbs me and creates just angst and I can’t enjoy this property that you so richly, wonderfully, and graciously have given me to live in. I would like you to not have any more children in the unit.”
You can do that for me, not just Jamie Williamson because I happen to be the chair of the MCAD because at 86, I won’t be. But you can actually say, “Okay, I have a tenant who but for the fact the presence of children would be a hardship.” But here’s the trick in all that. Now you have an apartment that becomes available and guess what happens? Somebody with family with children comes and wants to rent. What do you say to them?
Audience: [unintelligible 0:22:14]
Jamie: What do you say?
Audience: [unintelligible 0:22:14]
Jamie: [laughter] To a grouchy old woman who can’t stand kids. No, what happens is this. In the law, it says that you can’t print, publish, or make known your desire for a particular type of person living in your property. Now when you print, publish, or make known, when I say, “No, I don’t want kids,” I ran afoul of the law. How do I do that? Well, I don’t have the answer. That’s the answer. I don’t have the answer. I don’t know how you do that because any which ways, you got to be careful, and we haven’t figured that out when we put that law in. It sounded good and it made sense.
The question is now if that becomes an issue, how would we do that? The bottom-line is that you would probably say—what did somebody say? It wasn’t available? I already rented. I don’t know how you do this. You just pray. I do a lot of praying when I do landlording. That’s all I know. I pray a lot. I tell people that. That’s why I’m always praying because things can happen. I say that to tell you that part of the problem with the laws is just they haven’t been tested, and we don’t have full answers.
To your end, and I want to make sure that we go full circle because I do have a way of digressing. That’s a family trait. What happens is with the dogs, the question is with my insurance, the insurance company says that they will increase my insurance, or they will void my insurance if in fact I have a dog on the no dog list.
Now here’s the thing is, is that who is obligated under the Fair Housing Act to abide by and comply with the Fair Housing rules?
Jamie: Everyone. Let’s talk about who everyone is. It’s everyone that is connected to the housing industry. Let’s talk about who’s connected to the housing industry: landlords—
Jamie: Realtors. What do you need in order to buy a house today?
Jamie: Insurance, The insurance companies are also required to follow the Fair Housing Act. If you were a landlord and you had this request and they say, if in fact you will void your insurance, or we would charge you more money if we find out that you have this particular dog. You go to them, and actually I say you do that at the beginning, which is to send them a letter, telling them that you have a tenant who has made a reasonable accommodation request, asking to have that specific dog. If they are going to void your insurance or charge you more money, you would like them to put that in writing.
Audience: [inaudible 0:24:55]
Jamie: Okay. now the last time and I want to make sure I’m in the right place. Where you did you use to meet? Did you meet at the MLK Center at some point in time?
Jamie: You’re the same people?
Jamie: I want to make sure because I remember, and I say this I remember—
Rich: It depends on why you’re asking.
Jamie: [laughter] We’ve talked about reasonable accommodation, which is disability, which is the big one. Is there any burning questions that people want answered to in terms of RA, reasonable accommodation?
Male Audience 2: We got renters [unintelligible 0:25:26].
Jamie: Okay. here is where it gets tricky. This is where it’s really important now. We’re going to go back to the best way to guard yourself against doing things that may run afoul of the law is if you require everyone to do it. then it’s not discriminatory. Everyone has to do it. It’s a different conversation when you’re only requiring the disabled to do it; you got a problem.
When you say everyone in order to participate, to rent in my house, you have to have renter’s insurance. It’s a different conversation than saying that we’re only going to have certain people be, “You look like you’re probably going to cause some damage, so I think I’m going to need you to give me some insurance. I’d also like to be on that. Make me the beneficiary.” You can’t do that.
Anything that you do, you want to do across the board and now here’s where it gets tricky again. Again, some of these things just haven’t been tested all the way out to their natural conclusion.
There is a thing called disparate impact theory, which is also what we just came down. It was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States that said that disparate impact theory is a viable theory against discrimination in housing. What is disparate impact theory? Disparate impact says that you have made a policy that is neutral on its face but has a disparate impact, a negative impact on a particular group of people.
Let’s put that in layman’s terms. It’s a basic policy. It impacts a large group of people negatively. And so now, you have discriminated against that entire group, and therefore, that policy is inappropriate and discriminatory.
I’ll give you an example of one. You are all going to put an ad in the paper. In the paper, you say that you must be working for 3 years. Who might that policy have a disparate impact on? Who would it negatively impact?
Audience: [unintelligible 0:27:25].
Jamie: Well, anyone who doesn’t work, but that’s a large group of people. I’m talking about the protected groups of people.
Audience: Section 8?
Jamie: Hold on. Section 8 people actually, they have to spend a certain amount of their income on housing, so that would indicate that they actually work, not all of them, but some of them. But here is what it does, and it could very well be source of income. But more importantly, how about people with disabilities? All right, so that’s a large group, and I want to make it easy. I want us not to be contentious about all the lazy people that just don’t want to work while living in our houses for free. I don’t want to talk about them. I want to about all the good people who are entitled to and should have access.
Somebody with a disability who has enough income but is not currently employed. I’m hoping that when I get 86, I have enough money to pay the rent, but I damn sure hope I’m not working [laughter]. And so, at the end of the day, it would be the elderly, so the elderly would be impacted by the fact that you would want them to work.
Then what you would do is you say, “I’m going to break that rule for you.” You know what happens when you break a rule that you made for one person? You might as well break it for all of them because now you put yourself in harm’s way. Why did you break it for this person and not for that?
Rules, also you have to be very careful when you make policies that they’re not impacting anyone, any one group disproportionately. The argument would be that it would disproportionately impact a group of people, so that’s why you would not make that policy or that rule. But if you did it to everybody, it’s kind of like this: I’m an equal opportunity discriminator. I don’t like anybody.” That answer is kind of the better answer, which is I make everybody do it. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care who you are . Make everybody do it. And so who did you impact as long as it’s policy with a business reason.
It also has to have a business reason. You can’t just make a policy because it sounds good or feels good. It has to have a business reason. Now let me tell you why that matters. You come to the MCAD, and again, I want to give you just a quick little runabout about how MCAD works so that you all know just in case you end up in front of me. I hope that none of you because you can remember I have a long, long memory. Tell them.
Male Audience 3: Yes, yes [laughter].
Jamie: I don’t forget easy [laughter]. It’s still been carrying that around.
Male Audience 3: [unintelligible 0:29:53] extra.
Jamie: [laughter] I’m going to buy you a drink afterwards. The good news is we’re in a school, so it would only cost me $1 for some water. Okay, here’s what happens is that when you come to the MCAD. When somebody comes to the MCAD. Let’s say a tenant of yours files a complaint. They say that you discriminated against them, and it was based on let’s use national origin. They say that you did not rent to them because of their national origin.
How do we get to know whether or not that that’s true? The first thing we would do is they would tell us exactly what they think happened. They would fill out what we call a complaint. We would make sure that it meet all of its what they call prima facie element, and that’s basically meaning was the person actually a member of a protected category, did they search for housing, were they denied access, that sort of thing. Once we determine that they have a valid complaint in terms of making the prima facie elements of the case, then we would sign the complaint, let them sign the complaint.
Then we go to the respondent and say, “We received a complaint. Here’s the complaint. I want you to take a look at it. Now we’ll give you 21 days to respond to the complaint, meaning tell us your side of the story now. This person said this. We need you to tell us why that’s not true.”
Now the reason why what I’m going to say next matters is because if you come up with an answer and it may appear to be pretextual, meaning that you came up with something because you didn’t want to tell the truth, so you came up and you told something else and then that person then, the next thing would happen is they have to then show that there is pretext.
When you’re making a policy, practice, or procedure, you got to be able to say it was a business necessity. What’s a business necessity? What would be a policy that you would put into place when you’re doing tenant selection? It’s a business necessity.
Female Audience 2: Long-time [unintelligible 0:31:48] check.
Jamie: Credit! You have to have a certain credit score. You got to have more than 650 credit score in order to rent.
Male Audience 4: Summer repair.
Jamie: You’ve been listening to me, too [laughter]. I got a lot of plants here. I explained that if you were to say, “We only accept people with blond hair right now,” and again I use the joke that clearly me and L’Oréal have been doing a lot of strawberry blond for the summertime, but it’s not real. At the end of the day, the question would be is that who would that disparately impact because most people of color don’t have blond hair.? By and large, you would not find an African-American with blond hair if they were born prior to a certain date, kind of like disability.
Things are changing, so now you do find that, but not at the same level that you did in the past. I want to be clear because I got to be fair. Things have changed and ow there are people with blond hair that are African-American, by the way. Don’t want to have people left with misinformation. Yes, we could do something like that. As you can see that there are issues that you could make policies, practices, and procedures that may have a disparate impact on somebody and you have to be careful about that.
Okay, was there any other burning questions before we move on because I think it got to move off?
Male Audience 5: Same question.
Jamie: You got the same question? I haven’t answered that question yet?
Male Audience 5: Not yet.
Jamie: Okay. Let me try it again.
Male Audience 5: Cocaine and marijuana.
Rich: This group wants to know about marijuana.
Jamie: You know it’s sad because I’m being taped. I can’t participate [laughter]. I wouldn’t participate anyway, by the way.
Male Audience 5: Medical marijuana.
Jamie: Medical marijuana. Okay, here’s the issue with medical marijuana. On the federal side, have we said that it is okay to smoke pot?
Jamie: So, if you had a person, if you’re housing authority, could you allow somebody –housing authority is funded by the federal government. Could you then allow somebody to smoke pot in your building? The answer is no. Is smoking pot legal or illegal in the State of Massachusetts? If you can provide medical documentation, it’s legal, correct? When you’re saying, in my lease it says, “No illegal substance abuse or use,” would that be an accurate statement for a medical marijuana user?
Jamie: The answer is no.
Rich: And reasonable accommodation would be you don’t have to smoke it; or otherwise you can say, “Yes, you can use it but I have a ‘No smoking building.’ You can’t just smoke it.” That would be fine, right?
Jamie: Again, we just got a new law, and we’re going to have some new lawsuits. That’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to have some new law and we’re going to have some new lawsuits, and that’s how we’re going to decide. Can I give you the answer to the question right now? Honestly, I really can’t because all I can tell you is that those of us who are nonlawyers, and I suspect even some good lawyers would do the same thing, is they tell you about the precedent. They tell you what has survived the lawsuit and what has not happened during the lawsuit?
What was an argument that was not able to be made? In this case ,we don’t know. We just don’t know. If somebody says, “Hey, I don’t want smoking pot in my house.” The person does this, I don’t know enough about marijuana to tell you that. I do know that there are a lot of different avenues that you could actually ingest marijuana and get there.
The first thing that I would do is if that was the case and somebody came to me and said, no smoking, that would be my first response. Because it’s a safety inspector. I’m offering you another alternative. I’m offering you to say, “You can do it, but you can’t just do it that way.” I’ve seen those movies where they put it in brownies. Could you eat it. Would that work for you? Is it a hookah? Is it for pot? Is it opium? I don’t know some of these things. But there is something that you could smoke it that there is no…
Jamie: Vaporizer! That’s it. I’s a vaporizer.
Rich: Look at you people knowing how this works.
Jamie: I know. I know. They know some stuff out there.
Jamie: They know some stuff. I think a vaporizer would not create a smoke. Is that how it would work or something like that? You would say that you could only use it for vaporizer. But again, we’re just in new area. We’re new territory, and unfortunately, you know how they say, somebody has got to be the example. My theory is you just don’t want it to be you.
Rich: I’m starting to see why we always have to provide snacks at these meetings.
Jamie: [laughter] I get it now. I need to wrap it up. Is that it?
Rich: No, no. We have about 20 minutes left.
Rich: But if we could talk about a couple of just real actionable procedural things that might be best practices—
Rich: When advertising your apartment.
Audience: When showing your apartment, when screening folks, and also talk about testing.
Rich: Those are also some things we can cover.
Jamie: Okay, absolutely. I’m just going to ask you two. You had a question.
Audience: [unintelligible 0:37:00]
Rich: I’ve heard that’s a side effect.
Jamie: You know I was going to say is there is short-term memory loss? Okay, so let’s talk about testing because testing is one of my favorite things. It’s how I know that there’s a black tax and it’s how I found out, to tell you the truth. Testing is when anyone, and we’ll just call it an agency, a fair housing agency, sends out a tester or a person with a particular set of—
Male Audience 6: Agendas.
Jamie: No, no. Is that a question? I want to say demographics. It says I’m 52 years old. I’m African-American, whatever. We give them a list of their identity, so to speak, and we tell them how much money they make. We give them kind of an identity. Then we send them out and we ask them to go a particular place, gather some intel. Tell us about your experience. It’s all we do. we just give you this is who you are, and this is the information that you need to share with the landlord, and then tell us your experience. That’s it.
Then what we do is we send out someone who is not similarly situated, meaning not the same. For example, if you were the Whiteners, I now would go in and I would be the Blackeners, and I make $100, $200 more a month than you do. I would go in and now I would do the same thing. I have all the information. I know how much money I make and whether I have children or not.
Then what I would do is this I would write down my experience. Somebody would sit with me and confirm all the things that I’ve said happened in the order that they happened, just to make sure that we got it right, that there weren’t any holes and it goes through the process.
Then ultimately, the person who has designed this test would compare the two people’s experiences. How do we find out the differences? What might be a new nuance of this? This is how we found out about the black tax. You go in and you’re looking for housing. You and I are identical in every way except for the fact that I make $200 more a week than you do. They offer you the housing; They don’t offer it to me.
I’ve been discriminated against because why would they offer you, somebody who’s less qualified, than me? What would be the business reason to offer somebody who is less qualified housing over a more qualified person?
Male Audience 7: I had that happen to me. I’ve rented to a black person, and I got pissed off because I’ve already told a lot of people that I wouldn’t have them as a renter. I lost all those other people and they finally come back, and this was years ago. She was a tester. She came back and told me that I am only a tester out there for an organization. I got really—
Jamie: Yes, I got to tell you I’m not so sure about that because that’s now how it works, and I will tell you this. First of all, the testers are unknown. We never tell you what we’re testing for. But let me tell you—
Male Audience 7: I told that story what that renter has done to me.
Jamie: Yes, I don’t know if somebody was assuming so you would stop yelling at them that they were black and pissed you off. I don’t know. I would probably tell you anything you want to hear.
So, you want to have documentation, documentation, documentation. You already have the location. Now, you need the documentation. Document everything you do with everybody that you do it with. Have a policy. Make sure that you actually do what you say you’re going to do. Never change it.
We had a question last night about how would I go about tenant selection? What’s the best way to go about tenant selection? I said this is how I do it. Actually I don’t do it anymore, but my husband does it. Our property now is not in the same area that we live, and that means it’s difficult for us to get back and forth, so we decided that we would do what you call open house.
When we put the ad, wherever he puts the ads, he says that the property will be available to be looked at or shown from 5:00 to 7:00 on Thursday night and from 1:00 to 3:00 on Saturday and Sunday, and that’s it. What he does is he puts all the applications on the table. He puts all of the envelopes, the self-addressed envelopes, and he says, “Go take a tour, if you’re interested. Take the application and send it back. I’ll be making a decision by such and such a date.”
Now what he’s done is he’s made sure he doesn’t know who the application is from, right? He’s got no way of knowing because he said just take an application and send it back, so he doesn’t know. What can he not be accused of? Discrimination based on let’s just say race, for example. Somebody now comes and says, “Hey, Bill Marley discriminated against me. He didn’t rent to me because I’m black.”
I would say, “That’s kind of funny, honey. Did you tell them about me?” No. It’s funny. people do that stuff with my husband a lot, and then I walk in [laughter]. I break up a lot of good conversations, I’m sure. What happens is let’s say that it’s happening to you. We filed a complaint. It’s about race. You would say that this is my practice. This is how I do it, so I would not have known that the person was a person of color. How would I know that this person was a person of color? That’s your defense.
There’s ways for you to make sure that you’re not getting this information. Oftentimes, he will say, “I take the application by hand and then I write on it.” I’m like, “Yes, what do you write? Do you put smiley faces for the people you like and frowns for the people you don’t like?” because here’s what happened. There was a real estate agency that did that. Does anybody remember them? Yes, Choice Realty in Worcester. What was their problem? Do you remember what they did?
Audience: [inaudible 0:42:58]
Jamie: That’s right. [unintelligible 0:43:00] stood for people who did not want to rent to people of color. What they would do is this is ARCH property, you can’t rent to people of color. We obviously were able to find out because on all of their applications, they had little smiley faces and little frowns. When we put all the applications together, what do you think we found? All the smiley faces were people who were white, and all the frowns were people who were black or brown.
You don’t want to get caught with the evidence. I’m just saying. If you’re going to do destroy something like that, destroy the evidence. Take your chance. No, that was a joke. Just so you know I have to be careful. What I mean by that is this: you don’t want to do things that show that you’re looking for something.
What might you not want to do? You don’t want to take a picture or a driver’s license because what’s a driver license have on it? you got a picture on it. you don’t want to know anything about that person.
Here’s what you want to do. You want to avoid having a conversation about anything that is protected until you are in the process of negotiating for that piece of property. You don’t want to ask me what are the ages of my children when I walk in. “You have children?” You don’t want to ask me—what was the question last night? “Do you need a lead-free apartment?” [laughter] That’s what she asked me, so she said, “I start out by asking everybody, ‘Do you need a lead certificate?” Okay, so let’s play that one out ,so you understand why you’d never address that question.
Audience: [unintelligible 0:44:34] everyone.
Rich: So that everyone can get [unintelligible 0:44:34] about the idea, so can I jump in there real quick?
Rich: One way to do it and there are a lot of different ways to handle it, the way we do it is we always take an ID because we want to know who’s moving into our apartments, right?
Rich: But you don’t have to do it on the first meeting.
Rich: Okay, so we issue a conditional approval based upon our standards, income and that sort of thing.
Rich: And then there’s a second part. I split the application in half, basically so that all of the relevant stuff is in the first part, and then second part is when we collect pay check stubs and get an idea and stuff like that.
Rich: At that point, they’ve already been approved as long as everything else checks out.
Jamie: Right. But what I’m saying is this, is that when you’re picking the candidate during that process, during the vetting process, so you say, “This is my candidate,” then I ask for all of that information, right?
Jamie: After I selected a candidate. My point is you don’t do any of these things prior to selecting the candidate. Once you’ve selected the candidate, you could ask them for their firstborn.
Rich: You make it into a two-part thing.
Jamie: Yes, absolutely, because first of all, they’re sending it to me, so I couldn’t do everything then.
Jamie: Now I have the applications. I sift through all the applications. I see do they meet the criteria.
Jamie: I have a pile that, “Yes, there’s no chance,” and there’s a pile that I say, “Yes, these are potential candidates.” Then I go through the potential candidates and I screen them until they get to the point where here’s the best candidate. When I determine the best candidate, then I call them and I say, “Now you put in everything that you put into this application. If you can’t prove that stuff, that’s a different conversation. But you’re not asking any of those things until you get here.
Then you’re still not asking some other things until you get to the following piece, which is who will be living in the unit? You may ask how many applicants there are. “I have the right to ask how many occupants. I’m not asking how many kids do you have that are under the age of 5 because I have a lead paint in the house. I’m not asking that. Starting to with how many people will be occupying the unit? I may depending on whether you do this or not, may have a policy that says that you have to identify all people over the age of 18 for the purpose of knowing that you would then want a credit report from them, in order that they have to be a signatory on the application.
You can have rules like that, but you can’t just start out asking which this woman said which is when they called up, her first question was, “Do you need a lead certificate?” I’m like, “What do you think you’ve just asked everybody what you’ve given away?” Well, she said, “I ask everybody. Then I send them to the landlord who has one.” Let me talk about another thing that we don’t talk about.
Female Audience 3: Just so you can let the landlord know if you start the de-leading process [unintelligible 0:47:15].
Jamie: Right, right. That’s what she did. I want to tell you why this matters is because if you ask that question, do you need it, I want to tell you this is another piece of the law that’s important for you to understand because these cases happen. Had she asked that for a reason to say, “I have 22 properties that I manage, and what I’m going to do I know 10 of them are lead-free. I’m going to send you to those 10 to look at,” but she has 20 available properties. She’s only sending them to 10. What is that called? It’s called steering and that’s illegal.
When you say, “I’m managing all of these properties but I’m only going to send you to the properties that I know that you could actually rent from me because these re the only ones that have lead certificates.” you have to give me access to all of those properties and I want you to think about it like this—I got you back there—is that the way a gentleman attorney told me to say is that if you exchange the word with black people to see, if it still works for you. In this case is if you would ask the question in trying to figure out whether or not this makes sense, “I don’t rent to black people.” That doesn’t sound good. “I don’t do this, black people.” You’ll find very quickly when you use that it is a way to say, “That doesn’t really sound good, does it?”
That’s kind of like the first, easy quick way of saying, “I’m going to charge more for black people. I’m going to make black people get insurance.” See what happens? for some reason, when it comes to black people, everybody gets freaked out, so that’s easier for you to understand the nuance piece. When it’s disability, it’s, “Can I charge more because they do more damage?” But think about that: They do more damage or black people do more damage. All of a sudden, you get that there’s something nefarious about it, so it’s an easy, quick test for you.
I know you got a question, but there’s somebody way in the back who’s been holding their hand for an extended period of time. Let me get to them.
Rich: You’re really far away from them.
Jamie: I know but I needed you to get your exercise like I got mine this morning [laughter].
Male Audience 8: [unintelligible 0:49:18] you said that the most qualified. I settled [unintelligible 0:46:25] I want someone to pay or what they have to make once I get someone to that level, I should be able to pick them.
Male Audience 8: Because you said you went through application and you just take the best person. I don’t have to take the best person.
Jamie: Okay, there is the thing is. I said this is how I do it.
Male Audience 8: All right.
Jamie: But I’m tongue in cheek because here’s the thing is that there’s a lot of ways to do it, so for example, how I used to do it was the first qualified person, just the first qualified person that knocked on my door. The problem is that I have a set of circumstances now that are different. I can’t when I was doing, “Take the first qualified person, I was there to show the properties, I was able to do that. I was able to spend some time with you.
As they called, I brought them in. in this case, I don’t have that time anymore, so now it’s different, so that’s how I do it now. If I was living where I used to live, which is right next door to my properties, when they called and asked can I see the property, I’m like, “Yes, just honk your horn when you’re there and I’ll come downstairs and show you the apartment.” Then I take the first person that meet my standards.”
But in this case, like I said, one of the things that I found out was that it becomes meeting standards, when you turn people away, they generally then become, “Why did I get turned away?”
I will tell you this and this is one of the things that I’ve learned in civil rights: everybody is just wonderful when they’re telling you their story. “I am one of the best tenants. I’m going to take care of your property. It’s so beautiful! I’m going to take care of your property. I love the kitchen! I can’t wait. Can I put flowers out there?”
“Yes, I’ll end up with weeds. I get no flowers.”
“I’m going to pay. Can I take care of your property? I want to do all of these nice decorative things. It’s just so wonderful.”
They get in there. The next thing you know, they’re not paying rent, and you know what, “This place is a hole in the wall.”
“When you wanted it, it was looking pretty sweet. Now all of a sudden, you’re not paying your rent, it’s looking pretty shabby. Now you get to call the housing inspector all of a sudden.”
You got to understand that there’s ways you do things you make them so that they’re efficient on your rent. You wanted me to talk about testing, and then you wanted me to give you some tips about how to avoid. Okay, we went past the time.
Rich: Well, is it all right if we go a couple of minutes? You just want to hear more about this?
Rich: That was a lot of yes’s.
Jamie: Okay, and here’s the thing. Anybody who needs to leave, feel free to leave. I won’t be offended. Okay, yes, I really well, but it’s okay. I will get over it.
Rich: She will only remember it for 12 to 86 years if you do.
Jamie: Yes [laughter]. Let me do this so that I have all of you in the room because I really believe what I say about this and I think that there’s a lot of nuance things and you can always get caught up in something very simple like, “Well, I picked the best person and then they fell out.” Make sure that you document that. Make sure that you document everything that happens because all of a sudden, they don’t want the apartment anymore, now you may go back to the older people. When I say old, not age wise. Just people that were there before, you want to make sure. You got to be careful today.
Male Audience 9: Yes.
Jamie: I always have to be careful about everything I say. I realized that. part of it is that you may go back to that candidate pool and pull somebody out. Now how do you know what order they came in? Or do you then go and you’ve already told everybody out no, do you now go and get a new candidate pool because if you’re in the new candidate pool and I’m a black person in the old candidate pool, “I want to know why I got rejected and you said to me you had somebody and now you don’t and now you’re still renting it out?”
That becomes a problem, right? We ant to be mindful that when we pick somebody; that’s why I try to keep it in order, number 1, number 2, number 3. These are my top three picks. It’s the same thing because people are always getting that space. Let me just do this. Let me give you my telephone number. The people who weren’t here don’t get it [laughter]. This is for the people who actually attended. No, I’m kidding.
My cellphone number is this, it’s (413) 768-0610. I tell you that number because more often than not, you do not do business during regular business hours at the government works, which is 9:00 to 5:00. I’ve never had that particular job. I always work beyond 5:00. What time is it now? Yes. But you may need to have a question answered that you can’t wait. I’m going to suggest if you have a cellphone, text me. I can always text you back because it’s a silent thing and it’s easy for me to get to.
If it is a very complicated question and you need to have a lot of time with me, text me your number and say, “Please call me.” Or you can call me but I want you to have some backup because sometimes I get a lot of those phone calls. I actually lost a job opportunity because I thought it was one of those people that call to sell you something. I applied for a job in Chicago, I forget all about it. I saw Illinois number. I’m like, “I don’t know anybody in Illinois. I’m not going to answer that phone.”
A month later, they were like, “Would you like to apply? We got your resume. We’d like you to come in for an interview.” I’m like, “Probably not now.” Yes, I don’t always answer the phone with numbers I don’t know, so just make sure that if you called me and I haven’t called you in 48 hours, call me back or text me.
It’s important for you to know that you have somebody that you can call and ask the question, and I will do my best to answer it. I can’t guarantee and again, I’m not providing legal advice. I’m just trying to give you some information based on all of the information that I’ve gathered about the things that I do?
Female Audience 4: Can you repeat that number?
Jamie: Absolutely! (413) 768-0610. Then my name is Jamie. It’s J-A-M-I-E, Jamie Williamson.
Male Audience 10: Jamie what?
Jamie: Jamie Williamson like I’m William’s son but I’m actually James’ son. I’m sorry. I can’t mess people up like that. It’s Jamie Williamson or you can just call me chairwoman. No, I’m kidding. Or commissioner, or Jamie, whichever one fits your fancy. I personally like chairwoman but it’s okay. Jamie is fine. That’s what I was born with and I’ve had it the longest. Okay, any other questions before I go on? Yes.
Sandra: Actually it’s a two-part question.
Sandra: If you have a Section 8 tenant and in order for us to complete the application process and have them come out and do their inspection and you have a family with children under the age of 6. I cannot provide a lead paint certificate. Can I say. “I would like to be able to rent this to you. I can’t complete the paperwork to give to Section 8 because I don’t have a lead paint certificate. Your voucher runs out in a month. I don’t have anything at this point to offer you because I can’t complete the paperwork.” That’s question 1. Question 2—
Jamie: That was just one question? No, kidding.
Sandra: Are you allowed to have—
Rich: Can I have your phone number?
Sandra: Yes, I do. Yes, I’d be able to call you. On your application, are you allowed to have all the members of the family and what their ages are? Are you allowed to do that?
Jamie: Okay, I would be very careful about putting too much personal information, and what you get is you have more obligation to store any safe space. I would not ask for the ages of the children until you really were at the point where it matters. So my question to you first is why does it matter how old the kids are. Give me a good business reason for you to know how old those kids are.
Male Audience 11: Incompatibility of people still apply?
Jamie: Lord, have mercy! It was about compatibility. Okay, so you don’t think I’d be compatible with your wife’s friend over there? Is that what you’re saying to me?
Male Audience 11: That would be anybody.
Jamie: You see what I’m saying when you use black people how it changes. All of a sudden, now when you’re saying—
Male Audience 12: [unintelligible 0:57:22]
Jamie: Right, but you have to be careful because if you’re saying, “I’m going to be picking people based on their compatibility with each other, it’s like social engineering without a degree. You have to be very careful about that.
Rich: Don’t do it for example would be a way to be very careful.
Jamie: Right, right, right.
Sandra: There is something [unintelligible 0:57:47] in the space that you have and apartment, and how many people can be in that apartment.
Rich: How many humans but not the ages.
Jamie: Right. But again, I just want you to think about this. What is your reason for wanting to know how old they are? What difference does it make if they’re 8, 10, or 12?
Male Audience 13: I can answer that very easily.
Rich: I don’t know if you want to answer that. You might just want to quit while you’re ahead.
Jamie: Okay, just so that you know, here’s the thing. There’s no law or no justification for you to know the ages of the children. I’m just going to tell out front. If there’s a code, it’s violating the law. The problem is this, and it’s important for you to understand and I will give you an example just so that you know. Somebody was trying to build developments. They actually went to the city, asked the city to build senior housing, senior housing so they were building all brand-new houses. They were going to be for seniors.
The market tanks. They go back to the city, say, “Look, we can’t sell this to seniors who want to add another bedroom.” The city then turns around and says, “The only way we’ll let you do that is if you only market to families with one or no children.” The city did that. The city made an ordinance. They said the only way they could do it. Do you know that everybody in that process would have been sued because the city did something that was illegal? Just because the city does it doesn’t mean that it’s right. I’m telling you be careful. I’m telling you that you can’t.
If you can provide me a sound business reason why you need to know the age of somebody, then we can have that conversation, but I have yet to see anybody provide me with one.
Rich: Would you just put—
Female Audience 5: If I have a person that’s already [unintelligible 0:59:30] you have said [unintelligible 0:59:30]. I have that, and then comes the tenant that has the kids. [crosstalk 0:59:33]
Jamie: Okay. You’re all trying me.
Rich: Unless they have seeing-eye kids, I don’t think it’s going to become a—
Jamie: Okay, here’s the thing is. You can’t make rules. It’s not your job to worry about how people are going to choose to live, and I need to understand that. It’s important because it’s the foundation of all the reasons why you are trying so hard to be so helpful. What does that saying go? I know somebody knows it because it’s happened to them before. What is that about when you do something nice, you get…
Sandra: No good deed goes unpunished.
Jamie: That’s it, “No good deed goes unpunished.” You’re trying to help somebody, you’re going to find yourself in a world of trouble. Do you know how many calls I get where the woman says, “I’d love to rent to you, but I can’t rent to children under the age of 6 because it’s got lead paint. I’m just trying to help you out.” That’s against the law. You’re saying, “We got a disabled person over here, so we can’t rent to children.”
Female Audience 5: No, but you said at the beginning that peace and joyful.
Jamie: No, remember what I said it was a very specific person. It was the elderly, and that they had to show that there’s a hardship with the presence of children, so a disabled person isn’t the same thing as an elderly person. Now they could be elderly and disabled, but again this is about a particular group. I want you to think about this.
You see how many questions that you all have in all these varying degrees and shapes. I have when I get a case, think of all these things. I got to go through all of these levels. It’s not so easy just to answer a question because a question and the way we come to a determination is based on the facts that are presented to us.
It also is a little bit about your knowledge why it’s very important to come to places like this so that when you have that question and you think you got the answer, you want to just confirm it with the chairwoman by saying, “Hey, is that what you said? I just want to make sure I got it right.”
It’s important to get it right because I know you hear, but then you write it down wrong, then you say, “The chairwoman said that it was a disabled.” Then I call up the rest o the people and I say, “Oh, no she said it’s the elderly because we got it on tape.”
Rich: Jamie, I’ll give you a real quick and easy one, so that’s what’s not to do is to ask everybody’s ages.
Jamie: That’s right.
Rich: Would a better way to do that would be, “Is this person over or under 18?”
Jamie: That’s what I said earlier. My thing is this—
Rich: Yes or no.
Jamie: How many people are going to be occupying the unit and how many are over the age of 18? What would be the business reason for wanting to know why they’re over 18?
Rich: I want to run a criminal background on him.
Jamie: There you go because you may want them to sign on the lease.
Rich: I’m not going to run it on a 3-year-old, but I’m going to run it on the 19-year-old.
Jamie: Right, that’s right. Exactly right. Now you can say I have a legitimate business reason to do what I did. I can’t find one when you needed to know about the kids except for the fact that you got lead paint and you don’t want to rent to them.
Audience: [crosstalk 1:02:30]
Jamie: You know what, here’s what we’re going to do.
Rich: Oh, boy!
Jamie: Because I can’t answer the questions. I don’t want to just keep going and beating a dead horse. I will gladly talk to you individually, but the reality is this, is that there is no good business reason to ask for the ages of the children and I strongly suggest until you have a signed lease hat you stay away from asking that particular question. Again, this is just my advice. You don’t have to take it. I’m just saying—
Rich: Although you should take it. she’s the one who runs this in the whole state, guys. This is somebody that you want to dispute stuff with. You should listen and write notes and not talk.
Jamie: Okay, but I do also want—
Rich: The meeting ended 13 minutes ago.
Rich: And this lady who’s still here. By the way, this is a government employee who has taken her own personal time. She’s not getting paid for this.
Jamie: Thank you. Thank you I appreciate it.
Rich: Let’s try to keep the abuse to a minimum.
Rich: As we wrap this up.
Jamie: Right, okay. You—
Rich: We’ll do two more if that’s all right with you.
Jamie: Okay, yes, yes.
Rich: This lady has—
Female Audience 6: My question is regarding wait lists.
Jamie: Wait lists.
Female Audience 6: I predominantly have Section 8 housing. I accept applications all the time. As I process, that’s how they move along on the list. I’ve been told that I can’t give a timeframe. How long will I be on the list? I’m told that I can’t say that because it’s discriminatory.
Jamie: Who will I be discriminating against?
Female Audience 6: That’s my question. I mean it’s fine to say I have 50 people on the list.
Jamie: Can I just ask you who told you that?
Female Audience 6: My boss [laughter].
Rich: You should have brought him.
Jamie: Okay. I’m not going to ask you who your boss is. I’m not going to ask you where the property is, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. Here’s what I do know. My answer would always be, “ I don’t know because we have to wait for somebody to leave the apartment before.” That’s how I would answer it because that really is the answer. You really don’t know the answer, but then what my next question would be, “On average, how long do you take to pull somebody off the wait list?”
I asked because you gave me the answer, now I’m going to give the question back. Okay, so you can’t tell me, but approximately how long is it before you get to people on the waitlist?”
Female Audience 6: Eighteen months.
Jamie: Okay, so would it be okay for me to check back in 18 months to see if you made any progress?
Female Audience 5: We advise them to call every two months.
Jamie: You are a nice person, okay [laughter]. It doesn’t make any sense. Here’s the thing: the more you tell people who are going to be calling you back over and over is much information that can help them, the better off you are. I err on the side of caution. I don’t go telling people it’s every 2 months or whatever. If it’s 18 months, maybe you might want to say 24 months. I would like to under-promise and over-deliver. That way, I never get myself in hot water but for a few times as opposed to where it could be many times.
I think if I can get something done in 18 months, I’m just going to throw on 24 months because then when I get it in 18 months, they’re excited. They’re like, “Oh, my gosh! She got it in 18 months.” That’s what I prefer to do. Yes, sir, last question.
Rich: Are you going to be nice? You’re going to be nice?
Jamie: He likes me.
Rich: All right, all right.
Jamie: I think
Jamie: It’s just see that this could conceivably happen in this universe.
Male Audience 13: [unintelligible 1:05:56]
Rich: All right, cool.
Male Audience 14: If I was renting tenements and the majority of the tenants were of a certain color, origin, that type of thing, and if somebody was looking at an apartment, would it be legal to let them know because I’ve done that before. Yes, they’re my best friends, okay. Then when they get in there, nothing but problems.
Jamie: I’m just thinking—
Rich: That’s what we call a grand finale, Jamie Williamson.
Jamie: I’m going to leave it at enough side. Don’t tell. Don’t tell. Let me just tell you a little bit about these materials that I have here just so you know because I do think it’s important if everyone can grab one on the way out. There’s always a couple of questions about how many people can occupy a unit. That’s the big one I usually get.
I want to give you one quick thing about Section 8. What happens is when you have two children, one male and one female. There is a policy. It is a Section 8 policy that says if you are female, head of household, and you have two children onboard, one boy and one girl, you are entitled to a three-bedroom apartment—one for mom, one for the girl, and one for the boy. If you are a female head of household and you have two boys, you get two bedrooms, one for the mom and the two boys get to share.
Now everybody always ask this question is, “Do I have to rent a two-bedroom unit or can I rent a two-bedroom unit to a mom with a boy and a girl?” Can you?
Female Audience 6: Yes, you can!
Jamie: You know how she knows the answer?
Female Audience 6: She was there last night.
Rich: She was at the place last night.
Jamie: She was there last night and she got it wrong [laughter]. It’s important for you to realize that is what I told you is it’s a Section 8 policy that determines how many bedrooms a recipient is entitled to. It doesn’t mean that you all get to decide that a boy and a girl can’t live together to share a bedroom together.
How people cohabitate is none of your business. I say to you all this way: you all remember, at least I did. I had a father who used to fall asleep on the couch watching TV. And so many nights, he just fell asleep watching TV. Did he get up and go into the bedroom? Did you say you couldn’t live or sleep in the living room? Absolutely he just slept in the living room. It’s his house. He was the man. He said he was the guy that paid the rent; he could do whatever he wanted to do. Yes, sir.
Male Audience 15: [unintelligible 1:09:03]
Jamie: No. Somebody came up with a novel one and said the company—that was you? Yes, she came up with a novel one combination, but no that’s not it. It’s just a policy that is about the recipient, not about you. There is no law. If they want the two bedrooms, they want their kids to share, that’s up to them.
But in this, we have a little bit of a quiz. If you can’t figure out the answers, let me know, but the most important thing is that I wanted to show you is this. It’s here in the back. I’ve given you a list of all the protected categories in this little cheat sheet. These are the only people that you have to be concerned with, that you have to stay away questions about anything related to those particular categories.
Then on the other side, I made sure that I’ve given you what I believe is the Minimum Massachusetts Occupancy Standards. That will tell you how many people can actually rent your unit, so you do need to know how big your unit is.
Again, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me and I’d leave with you with this, it is far cheaper for you to call me than for me to call you. Thank you all very much. Hope all your rents are paid on time. I’ll stick around for a few minutes.