by Harry Heist, Attorney at Law
In a past issue of our email newsletter, specifically the March 2008 issue, we addressed the topic of copying an applicant or a resident’s ID. It is our opinion that the benefits of copying ID and having it on file outweigh the potential risk that you would be found to be engaging in illegal discrimination. The discrimination charges in the past have arisen out of a few cases with managers sitting down and going through copies of ID, looking at the pictures of the applicants and then using this as a basis to pick and choose who is approved or not approved in a discriminatory fashion in violation of Fair Housing Laws. We feel that you know better and would not ever engage in such a practice. With that said, we must address a little known law regarding military identification. 18 US Code Section 701 prohibits anyone other than persons from specifically authorized state and federal agencies to make a photocopy of a military ID or Common Access Card and the penalties for violating this law are severe!
Asking to See or View the Military ID
The law does not prohibit you from asking to see, examine and view the military ID or Common Access Card. If the applicant has a driver’s license or other state issued ID, this should suffice and since it is illegal under federal and state laws to discriminate against a person in the military, it may not even be prudent to ask to see it as it may have no relevance. If the applicant does not have a driver’s license or other state issued ID, there is no problem at all in asking to view the military ID.
When is ID usually Copied
Most property management companies have a policy whereby ID is at a bare minimum examined and cross reference to the application. The purpose of course is to confirm as best as possible that the person filling out the application is in fact the person they say they are. Another time for ID copying may be for unit showing purposes. Many companies have a policy where for safety reasons, they will copy a person’s ID prior to going out to an apartment or taking a prospect to a rental home. Finally, many companies have a policy to keep the ID in the file for many other purposes such as for a key release in the event of a lock out or for later collection activities. These are all legitimate and valid reasons to copy ID. The key is that it is not military ID.
The Federal Law
18 U.S. Code § 701 – Official badges, identification cards, other insignia
“Whoever manufactures, sells or possesses any badge, identification card or other insignia of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee thereof, or any colorable imitation thereof, or photographs, prints, or in any other manner makes or executes any engraving, photograph, print, or impression in the likeness of any such badge, identification card, or other insignia, or any colorable imitation thereof, except as authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”
Simply put, do not copy military ID as it is against the law. The penalty is both a potential fine and could result in up to 6 months imprisonment. If you do not have this written in your policy and procedures manual, we recommend you put it in now and advise any and all of your employees or anyone engaged in leasing to be careful to never violate this law. Finally, the security of your applications is paramount and if you do not have your applications stored in a locked, secure and maybe even a hidden place, you are putting your resident, applicant, your company and yourself at great risk. The topic of application security will be discussed in a later article.