America, in every way, represents equality of opportunity for all persons. The rich diversity of its citizens and the spirit of unity that binds us all symbolize the principles of freedom and justice upon which this nation was founded. That is why it is extremely disturbing when new immigrants, minorities, families with children, and persons with disabilities are denied the housing of their choice because of illegal discrimination. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination and the intimidation of people in their homes, apartment buildings, and condominium developments – in nearly all housing transactions, including the rental and sale of housing and the provision of mortgage loans. Equal access to rental housing and homeownership opportunities is the cornerstone of this nation’s federal housing policy. Housing providers who refuse to rent or sell homes to people based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability are violating federal law, and HUD will vigorously pursue enforcement actions against them. Housing discrimination is not only illegal, it contradicts in every way the principles of freedom and opportunity we treasure as Americans. HUD is committed to ensuring that everyone is treated equally when searching for a place to call home.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of: • Race or color • National Origin • Religion • Sex • Familial status (including children under the age of 18 living withparents or legal custodians; pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18) • Disability
The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances,the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
If you or someone associated with you: • Have a physical or mental disability (including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, cancer, chronic mental illness, HIV/ AIDS, or mental retardation) that substantially limits one or more major life activities • Have a record of such a disability or • Are regarded as having such a disability, a housing provider may not: – Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if it may be necessary for you to fully use the housing. (Where reasonable, a landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.) – Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if it may be necessary for you to use the housing on an equal basis with nondisabled persons. Example: A building with a “no pets” policy must allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog. Example: An apartment complex that offers tenants ample, unassigned parking must honor a request from a mobility-impaired tenant for a reserved space near her apartment if it may be necessary to assure that she can have access to her apartment. However, the Fair Housing Act does not protect a person who is a direct threat to the health or safety of others or who currently uses illegal drugs. Accessibility Requirements for New Multifamily Buildings: In buildings with four or more units that were first occupied after March 13, 1991, and that have an elevator: • Public and common use areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities • All doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs • All units must have: – An accessible route into and through the unit – Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls – Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars and – Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs. If a building with four or more units has no elevator and was first occupied after March 13, 1991, these standards apply to ground floor units only. These accessibility requirements for new multifamily buildings do not replace more stringent accessibility standards required under State or local law.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person whose household includes one or more children who are under 18 years of age (familial status). Familial status protection covers households in which one or more minor children live with: • A parent; • A person who has legal custody (including guardianship) of a minor child or children; or • The designee of a parent or legal custodian, with the written permission of the parent or legal custodian. Familial status protection also extends to pregnant women and any person in the process of securing legal custody of a minor child (including adoptive or foster parents). The “Housing for Older Persons” Exemption: The Fair Housing Act specifically exempts some senior housing facilities and communities from liability for familial status discrimination. Exempt senior housing facilities or communities can lawfully refuse to sell or rent dwellings to families with minor children. In order to qualify for the “housing for older persons” exemption, a facility or community must prove that its housing is: • Provided under any State or Federal program that HUD has determined to be specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons (as defined in the State or Federal program); or • Intended for, and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or • Intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older. In order to qualify for the “55 or older” housing exemption, a facility or community must satisfy each of the following requirements: • at least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older; and • the facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to operate as “55 or older” housing; and • the facility or community must comply with HUD’s regulatory requirements for age verification of residents. The “housing for older persons” exemption does not protect senior housing facilities or communities from liability for housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin. HUD is ready to help with any problem of housing discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, you may file a complaint online, write a letter or telephone the HUD office nearest you. You have one year after the alleged discrimination occurred or ended to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.
What to Tell HUD: • Your name and address • The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the respondent) • The address or other identification of the housing involved • A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused you to believe your rights were violated) • The date(s) of the alleged violation. Where to Write or Call: File a complaint online, send a letter to the HUD office nearest you, or if you wish, you may call that office directly. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and use a TTY, may call those offices through the toll-free Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339. For Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont: BOSTON REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_01@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Federal Building 10 Causeway Street, Room 321 Boston, MA 02222-1092 Telephone (617) 994-8300 or 1-800-827-5005 Fax (617) 565-7313 * TTY (617) 565-5453 For New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands: NEW YORK REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_02@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 26 Federal Plaza, Room 3532 New York, NY 10278-0068 Telephone (212) 542-7519 or 1-800-496-4294 Fax (212) 264-9829 * TTY (212) 264-0927 For Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia: PHILADELPHIA REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_03@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development The Wanamaker Building 100 Penn Square East Philadelphia, PA 19107-9344 Telephone (215) 861-7646 or 1-888-799-2085 Fax (215) 656-3449 * TTY (215) 656-3450 For Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee: ATLANTA REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_04@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Five Points Plaza 40 Marietta Street, 16th Floor Atlanta, GA 30303-2808 Telephone (404) 331-5140 or 1-800-440-8091 x2493 Fax (404) 331-1021 * TTY (404) 730-2654 For Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin: CHICAGO REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_05@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building 77 West Jackson Boulevard, Room 2101 Chicago, IL 60604-3507 Telephone 1-800-765-9372 Fax (312) 886-2837 * TTY (312) 353-7143 For Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas: FORT WORTH REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_06@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 801 Cherry Street Suite 2500, Unit #45 Fort Worth, TX 76102-6803 Telephone (817) 978-5900 or 1-888-560-8913 Fax (817) 978-5876/5851 * TTY (817) 978-5595 For Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska: KANSAS CITY REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_07@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Gateway Tower II 400 State Avenue, Room 200, 4th Floor Kansas City, KS 66101-2406 Telephone (913) 551-6958 or 1-800-743-5323 Fax (913) 551-6856 * TTY (913) 551-6972 For Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming: DENVER REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_08@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1670 Broadway Denver, CO 80202-4801 Telephone (303) 672-5437 or 1-800-877-7353 Fax (303) 672-5026 * TTY (303) 672-5248 For Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada: SAN FRANCISCO REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_09@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 600 Harrison Street, Third Floor San Francisco, CA 94107-1387 Telephone 1-800-347-3739 Fax (415) 489-6558 * TTY (415) 489-6564 For Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington: SEATTLE REGIONAL OFFICE (Complaints_office_10@hud.gov) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Seattle Federal Office Building 909 First Avenue, Room 205 Seattle, WA 98104-1000 Telephone (206) 220-5170 or 1-800-877-0246 Fax (206) 220-5447 * TTY (206) 220-5185 If after contacting the local office nearest you, you still have questions – you may contact HUD further at: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity 451 7th Street, S.W., Room 5204 Washington, DC 20410-2000 Telephone 1-800-669-9777 Fax (202) 708-1425 * TTY 1-800-927-9275 www.hud.gov/fairhousing If You Are Disabled: HUD also provides: • A TTY phone for the deaf/hard of hearing users (see above list for the nearest HUD office) • Interpreters, Tapes and Braille materials • Assistance in reading and completing forms
HUD will notify you in writing when your complaint is accepted for filing under the Fair Housing Act. HUD also will: • Notify the alleged violator (respondent) of the filing of your complaint, and allow the respondent time to submit a written answer to the complaint. • Investigate your complaint, and determine whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent violated the Fair Housing Act. • Notify you and the respondent if HUD cannot complete its investigation within 100 days of filing your complaint, and provide reason for the delay. Fair Housing Act Conciliation: During the complaint investigation, HUD is required to offer you and the respondent the opportunity to voluntarily resolve your complaint with a Conciliation Agreement. A Conciliation Agreement provides individual relief to you, and protects the public interest by deterring future discrimination by the respondent. Once you and the respondent sign a Conciliation Agreement, and HUD approves the Agreement, HUD will cease investigating your complaint. If you believe that the respondent has violated breached your Conciliation Agreement, you should promptly notify the HUD Office that investigated your complaint. If HUD determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent violated the Agreement, HUD will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to file suit against the respondent in Federal District Court to enforce the terms of the Agreement. Complaint Referrals to State or Local Public Fair Housing Agencies: If HUD has certified that your State or local public fair housing agency enforces a civil rights law or ordinance that provides rights, remedies and protections that are “substantially equivalent” to the Fair Housing Act, HUD must promptly refer your complaint to that agency for investigation, and must promptly notify you of the referral. The State or local agency will investigate your complaint under the “substantially equivalent” State or local civil rights law or ordinance. The State or local public fair housing agency must start investigating your complaint within 30 days of HUD’s referral, or HUD may retrieve (“reactivate”) the complaint for investigation under the Fair Housing Act.
If you need immediate help to stop or prevent a severe problem caused by a Fair Housing Act violation, HUD may be able to assist you as soon as you file a complaint. HUD may authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to file a Motion in Federal District Court for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the respondent, followed by a Preliminary Injunction pending the outcome of HUD’s investigation. A Federal Judge may grant a TRO or a Preliminary Injunction against a respondent in cases where: • Irreparable (irreversible) harm or injury to housing rights is likely to occur without HUD’s intervention; and • There is substantial evidence that the respondent has violated the Fair Housing Act. Example: An owner agrees to sell a house, but, after discovering that the buyers are black, pulls the house off the market, then promptly lists it for sale again. The buyers file a discrimination complaint with HUD. HUD may authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to seek an injunction in Federal District Court to prevent the owner from selling the house to anyone else until HUD investigates the complaint.
Determination of Reasonable Cause, Charge of Discrimination, and Election: When your complaint investigation is complete, HUD will prepare a Final Investigative Report summarizing the evidence gathered during the investigation. If HUD determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent(s) discriminated against you, HUD will issue a Determination of Reasonable Cause and a Charge of Discrimination against the respondent(s). You and the respondent(s) have twenty (20) days after receiving notice of the Charge to decide whether to have your case heard by a HUD Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or to have a civil trial in Federal District Court. HUD Administrative Law Judge Hearing: If neither you nor the respondent elects to have a Federal civil trial before the 20-day Election Period expires, HUD will promptly schedule a Hearing for your case before a HUD ALJ. The ALJ Hearing will be conducted in the locality where the discrimination allegedly occurred. During the ALJ Hearing, you and the respondent(s) have the right to appear in person, to be represented by legal counsel, to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses and to request subpoenas in aid of discovery of evidence. HUD attorneys will represent you during the ALJ Hearing at no cost to you; however, you may also choose to intervene in the case and retain your own attorney. At the conclusion of the Hearing, the HUD ALJ will issue a Decision based on findings of fact and conclusions of law. If the HUD ALJ concludes that the respondent(s) violated the Fair Housing Act, the respondent(s) can be ordered to: • Compensate you for actual damages, including out-of-pocket expenses and emotional distress damages • Provide permanent injunctive relief. • Provide appropriate equitable relief (for example, make the housing available to you). • Pay your reasonable attorney’s fees. • Pay a civil penalty to HUD to vindicate the public interest. The maximum civil penalties are: $16,000, for a first violation of the Act; $37,500 if a previous violation has occurred within the preceding five-year period; and $65,000 if two or more previous violations have occurred within the preceding seven-year period. Civil Trial in Federal District Court: If either you or the respondent elects to have a Federal civil trial for your complaint, HUD must refer your case to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement. The U.S. Department of Justice will file a civil lawsuit on your behalf in the U.S. District Court in the district in which the discrimination allegedly occurred. You also may choose to intervene in the case and retain your own attorney. Either you or the respondent may request a jury trial, and you each have the right to appear in person, to be represented by legal counsel, to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, and to request subpoenas in aid of discovery of evidence. If the Federal Court decides in your favor, a Judge or jury may order the respondent(s) to: • Compensate you for actual damages, including out-of-pocket expenses and emotional distress damages • Provide permanent injunctive relief. • Provide appropriate equitable relief (for example, make the housing available to you). • Pay your reasonable attorney’s fees. • Pay punitive damages to you. Determination of No Reasonable Cause and Dismissal: If HUD finds that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the respondent(s) violated the Act, HUD will dismiss your complaint with a Determination of No Reasonable Cause. HUD will notify you and the respondent(s) of the dismissal by mail, and you may request a copy of the Final Investigative Report. Reconsiderations of No Reasonable Cause Determinations: The Fair Housing Act provides no formal appeal process for complaints dismissed by HUD. However, if your complaint is dismissed with a Determination of No Reasonable Cause, you may submit a written request for a reconsideration review to: Director, FHEO Office of Enforcement, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street, SW, Room 5206, Washington, DC 20410-2000. In Addition You May File a Private Lawsuit: You may file a private civil lawsuit without first filing a complaint with HUD. You must file your lawsuit within two (2) years of the most recent date of alleged discriminatory action. If you do file a complaint with HUD and even if HUD dismisses your complaint, the Fair Housing Act gives you the right to file a private civil lawsuit against the respondent(s) in Federal District Court. The time during which HUD was processing your complaint is not counted in the 2-year filing period. You must file your lawsuit at your own expense; however, if you cannot afford an attorney, the Court may appoint one for you. Even if HUD is still processing your complaint, you may file a private civil lawsuit against the respondent, unless (1) you have already signed a HUD Conciliation Agreement to resolve your HUD complaint; or (2) a HUD Administrative Law Judge has commenced an Administrative Hearing for your complaint. Other Tools to Combat Housing Discrimination: • If there is noncompliance with the order of an Administrative Law Judge, HUD may seek temporary relief, enforcement of the order or a restraining order in a United States Court of Appeals. • The Attorney General may file a suit in Federal District Court if there is reasonable cause to believe a pattern or practice of housing discrimination is occurring.
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