Dear Fair Housing Lady: Guest Card Policy

| October 2, 2013 | 7 Comments

Guest CardsDear Fair Housing Lady:


In regards to Guest Cards… What is the policy on keeping guest cards of prospects that do not sign a lease with you? For example we require a hand written guest card on any piece of traffic (internet lead, phone call, walk-in). If the prospect signs a lease their guest card goes with their lease paperwork, if they don't sign a lease are we required to keep that guest card for a certain period of time? Keep in mind we also input each prospect into our property management software!


You have asked what policy there may be as involves keeping guest cards, and the brief, non-legal-advice answer is that the policy is whatever you want it to be.  But Fair Housing Lady is rarely brief (just ask her husband) so I am going to expand on my answer.  There is not (at least to my knowledge) any law that dictates what your guest card policy must be.  So if your policy is that (1) every “piece of traffic” is a lead and is handwritten on a guest card; (2) lead-to-lease conversions result in your retaining the handwritten guest card with the resident file; and (3) all other lead data (i.e. guest card input not resulting in a lease) is transferred to a software program – then that should be fine.  But as I always harp on (don’t ask my husband about my harping), once you have a policy (as you have here) – write it down and follow it!  The one other question which you did not ask, but that I will ask on your behalf, is how long should you be keeping guest cards and other lead data?  On good authority I have been told that unless your State or local laws require otherwise, three years is a good practice.  Most fair housing complaints and lawsuits must be filed within a one-to-two year window (depending on the route taken by the person bringing the action), and a three-year retention means you will always have the information that may be asked of you.



Category: Property Managers & Owners

About Nadeen Green: Nadeen Green has been an attorney since 1979. She has taught Fair Housing law to the multi-family housing industry since the Fair Housing Amendments Act when into effect in 1989. She has been asked to speak numerous times for the National Apartment Association and the Multi-Housing World annual conventions. Her reader-friendly articles on Fair Housing appear regularly in industry publications. Nadeen is proud to be Senior Counsel with For Rent Media Solutions, which offers print and online advertising products for all communities, whether through For Rent Magazine®,, Para Rentar, Senior Outlook, After 55, or specialized publications for condominiums and student housing. .

Comments (7)

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  1. This was a great question as I have rarely seen a definied guest card policy. It has always been verbally stated during my career. Thanks Fair Housing Lady for giving us a timeline on how long to keep guest cards.

  2. Great advice, as always. Something else to keep in mind that isn’t necessarily related to Fair Housing (but arguably could result in just as hefty a lawsuit) is how you dispose of said paper guest cards. Are you just throwing them away? Or is it your company policy to shred them?

    In addition to having a company standard for timelines to save guest cards, you should also include how to handle and protect the personal information included on them.

    • Nadeen Green says:

      Hello, David. Thank you for adding to the guest card policy with some excellent feedback. (I tend to be a “one shot wonder” – if “wonder” is even accurate – and sometimes don’t see the proverbial forest through all of my fair housing trees.) In some parts of the country not only could a failure to properly dispose of paper guest cards (and all other applicant and resident paperwork) can result in a “hefty lawsuit” as pointed out. And additionally, there can be criminal fines – sometimes as much as $1000 for each sin. So if folks toss out the paperwork on 50 applicants (paperwork that may even be years old), that could be a $50K bad decision. Shred, people…shred!

  3. Nadeen

    Is there a Federal, State, or Local law on whether or not you have to have a written guest card? Or can it all be done in a software program like, Yardi?

    • Nadeen Green says:

      While Fair Housing Lady cannot, as a practical matter, keep up with all of the State and local laws, she (that would be me) will give you some input on your excellent question. Generally a landlord (that would be you) can pretty well run the apartment operations as is wished, as long as doing that is not found to be discriminatory. So a landlord does not have to have guest cards, can choose to have guest cards, can capture whatever information is needed (as long as the requested information is not discriminatory), and do this on paper, electronically or even carved in stone (the latter, admittedly, not practical). What you want to do is (1) make sure that what you are capturing on a guest card is non-discriminatory; (2) make sure that your guest card policy is consistently applied to all who reach out to you to be considered as residents; and that you retain your guest cards, no matter the format, for a period of time that reflects sound document management practices. Hopefully this non-legal advice is helpful, and if we need to continue this discussion, I welcome your further inquiry.

  4. Wendy Reyes says:

    Can guess cards be in different colors ? Or do they have to be the same color for all? Also, how about the ink color? Must The ink be black? Can we use color Pens or do we have to write in black pen? I’m sorry, for this silly questions but recently I was in one of this conversations and they were told ” Per fair housing , they all have to be written in blank pen and same color, white.” You already answer the question about the ” must handwritten” guess card. I took a Fair Housing class but we didn’t cover these details . So, you can say I’m a little confused, now. Thank you for your time.

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