Housing Discrimination

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Signed by President Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968, the Fair Housing Act is one of the components of the Civil Rights Act, which was drafted to protect the rights of consumers wishing to buy, rent, or finance housing.

Specified in Title VIII of the document, the Fair Housing Act Discrimination states that it’s illegal for sellers, landlords, or financial institutions to discriminate against consumers based on race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, familial status, physical disability, or choice of lifestyle.

What does it cover?

The Fair Housing Act applies to privately owned houses or buildings, as well as dwellings that are subsidized by a local or state government agency. In addition to prohibiting fair housing discrimination related to the sale or rental of a property, the Act also covers zoning, new construction, financing, and advertising.

Most structures are covered by the Fair Housing Act and housing discrimination laws. Some possible exceptions include single-family homes that are sold or rented by the owner without enlisting the services of a third-party broker, smaller apartment buildings (four units or less) that are occupied by the owner, or dwellings that are owned and maintained by private organizations for the sole use of their members.

What acts of discrimination does it prohibit?

The Fair Housing Act forbids property owners from considering race, gender, familial status or living arrangements, physical disability, religious beliefs, or lifestyle when determining the eligibility of a seller or renter. None of these traits may be used as the basis for any of the following:

  • Denying housing
  • Refusing to negotiate an offer amount
  • Changing the terms of sale or rental
  • Claiming that the property has been sold or rented when it’s actually still available

The house discrimination Act also prevents loan officers and mortgage lenders from refusing to lend money, assigning a lower appraisal value, or changing the terms of a loan based on the same personal traits.

In addition to prohibiting property owners from discrimination on housing to buyers or renters based on a physical disability, the Fair Housing Act also requires them to make reasonable accommodations for disabled buyers or renters. This may entail changes to their rental and selling policies, designation of special parking spaces, and the installation of wheelchair-accessible entries and doorways.

How can someone report violations of the Act?

If a property owner is suspected of violating the Fair Housing Act, complaints can be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) using one of the following methods:

Mail the completed form to:

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Room 5204
451 Seventh St. SW
Washington, DC 20410-2000

Mailed Letter: Complaints can also be filed by written letter. Include the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the owner who is suspected to be in violation
  • The address of the house or apartment you were trying to rent or buy
  • The date when the alleged discrimination occurred
  • A brief summary of the denial or discriminatory event

Refer to the link below to find the nearest Fair Housing Hub and send the letter to that mailing address.

http://www.hud.gov/localoffices.cfm

What is the complaint process?

  1. After submitting a complaint, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department will contact you to confirm that it has been received.
  2. HUD housing discrimination department will then notify the property owner that a complaint has been filed against them.
  3. An investigation will be launched to determine if there are sufficient grounds for the complaint.
  4. HUD will attempt to work with the property owner to reach an agreement in the best interests of all parties. (Alternately, HUD may choose to submit your complaint to be investigated by your local or state government agency.)
    1. If a contract agreement is made, the complaint will be considered closed.
    2. If a settlement isn’t reached, HUD may advise that legal action be taken against the defendant.

If the complaint goes to court, what happens?

If it’s determined that your discrimination and housing complaint is valid, the case will be presented either in an administrative hearing or a district court. If you or the defendant chooses to try the case in Federal District Court and the court rules that illegal discrimination did take place, the defendant may be ordered to:

  • Pay you for damages
  • Offer you housing
  • Pay civil fees to the Federal Government
  • Pay all associated legal fees

Court lawsuits can be filed at any time up to two years after a suspected discriminatory action, as long as you haven’t signed an agreement with the alleged violator and a hearing has not been held by an Administrative Law Judge.

If you feel you've been discriminated against, speak with a civil rights attorney who can help with your situation.

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