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Impact makers: industry expert Joseph D. Puckett, JD: protected classes, landlord-tenant issues.

NAA: Why did you volunteer to participate in the Industry Experts Service?

Puckett: My entire professional life has been spent as a lawyer representing property owners and managers and I felt it important to use the expertise I had gained to benefit other owners and managers in dealing with government agencies and regulations.

NAA: Your areas of expertise are protected classes and landlord-tenant issues. How did you learn all the issues surrounding this?

Puckett: When I was representing property owners and managers in 1989, fair housing became a significant issue when people with disabilities and families with children were added as protected classes under the federal Fair Housing Act. Additionally, the enforcement provisions were substantially enhanced. That led to a growing number of discrimination complaints that I handled during my legal career.

As for learning landlord-tenant issues, property managers contacted me daily about our state's landlord-tenant act or for general landlord-tenant questions that may not deal directly with the act. It was learning by doing.

NAA: What is occurring now in your area with regard to these issues?

Puckett: Several things. First, there are efforts to expand the category of protected classes at the state and local levels to include areas such as source of income or Section 8 and make that a protected class. Second, there are efforts to make ex-offenders, either through employment or housing or both, a protected class.

Regarding people with disabilities, there is the requirement that property owners make reasonable accommodations, particularly in the area of service animals (referred to by sonic as companion animals). Property owners are looking for the brightline test and there just isn't one. That is understandably very frustrating to housing Providers.

With landlord-tenant, probably the one I've seen most involves tenant screening and the ability of anyone to gather information about a person over the Internet. Tenant advocates are trying to restrict what is available or how it can he used, and there is a push-pull between freedom of access and freedom of information versus claims by tenants that some property owners or managers misuse the information or that the information is inaccurate or incomplete. That subject should be dealt with at the federal level versus at the state or local level.

NAA: What lies ahead for protected classes and landlord-tenant issues?

Puckett: Protected classes seem to be an issue that's more on the forefront at the state and local level. There have been far more efforts in the past five to 10 years to increase the number of definitions of protected classes at the state and local level. That's where the battles will continue to be fought. Sexual orientation as a protected class, source of income and ex-offenders are among these topics, and I don't think that Congress will want to deal with them.

Tenant screening is another issue that will remain at the state and local level. There may be efforts to get some members of Congress to become interested in the issue, but members of Congress have far more significant issues such as the federal debt to deal with, so I don't think this is something they will be eager to take on.

NAA: Have you had an opportunity to represent NM as an Industry Expert yet at the state or local level and, if so, when and how?

Puckett: I have indirectly in my work for the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association. I'm always testifying to state legislative committees or local government councils. I feel that I am representing both the local affiliate and NM in general.

NAA: What advice do you have for other NM members who wuiiId like to become involved as an Industry Expert?

Puckett: if they want to learn about issues I suggest that they reach out to NM and its Government Affairs staff. I do that on a regular basis when I am doing research to find out what other local jurisdictions are doing or have done. I find NAA staff to be very responsive and have the ability to provide that research on a fairly quick turnaround basis.

The term "industry expert" may turn off some people. People may not believe that they're an expert. But if you have been involved in multifamily housing for any period of time, you probably have acquired significant knowledge about a variety of issues, from working with vendors to dealing with government regulators, where you can provide a service to others. I would urge you to start with reaching out to your local affiliate or making yourself known to NM Government Affairs.

About This Series. Part of a recurring series of interviews with members of NAA's industry Experts Service. These experts provide the apartment industry's perspective to key influencers such as policy organizations, the news media and Congressional, state legislative or regulatory agency staff.

Industry Experts advance NAA's legislative and regulatory agenda and "put a face" on the industry by providing compelling, real-life examples showing the effects of an issue on the industry and our members' businesses.


Joe Puckett is a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association and also its Director of Government Affairs. He also serves on NAA's Legislative Committee. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by WMFHA in recognition of his many years of service to the multifamily industry in Washington State.

Puckett practiced law for more than 35 years and represented property owners and managers in many negotiations and disputes involving property owners/managers and residents. He also handled more that 200 fair housing claims involving race, religion, disability, familial status and sexual orientation. He has been a frequent presenter at seminars and trainings for both lawyers and property professionals. In his legal career, he has represented property owners/managers in more than 5,000 residential and commercial eviction cases.

Puckett earned his Juris Doctor from Willamette University College of Law and was editor-in-chief of the law review.
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Title Annotation:Impact Makers
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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