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Learn About Filing a Housing Discrimination Complaint

Residents submit housing discrimination complaints when a type of illegal bias occurs when acquiring a home. All individuals should know how to file a housing discrimination complaint and the types of housing discrimination that are unlawful, as to identify and react if discrimination arises. Property owners and managers are not allowed to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disability. These characteristics are protected by the Fair Housing Act and are against the law. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has specific forms and ways that seniors can combat housing discrimination. To find out more about the housing discrimination complaint process, please refer to the sections below.

Learn About Fair Housing Act and Housing Discrimination Complaints

Housing discrimination complaints should be filed when situations violate the Fair Housing Act. This act covers all types of housing discrimination and states that it is illegal to discriminate against anyone in the terms and conditions of a rental property or the sale of a home in private or public housing sectors. These types of housing discriminations include color, race, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and other forms of discrimination. This act includes the printing or publishing of an advertisement for a rental or home for sale that denotes a preference in these characteristics. Landlords and homeowners looking to sell their homes are also not allowed to say that their property is not available for inspection, to rent or for sale because of any of the aforementioned reasons. It is also illegal for a realtor or anyone to try and persuade anyone to sell or rent a home, apartment or any other residence by mentioning any of the other aforementioned things.

Other types of housing discrimination can occur when the housing is already obtained. Renters may file a housing discrimination complaint if the landlord fails to make changes to the dwelling or policies that are needed so the tenant can make full use of the rented space. This includes refusing to allow changes to the apartment or home to allow a handicapped person to use the space as any other tenant. The handicapped person must pay for these changes but the landlord or homeowner must allow it. If the space has common areas for multiple families, then the shared area must be accessible to the handicapped person as well. This includes doors being designed to allow the handicapped person to pass through, bars in the bathrooms and more. A housing discrimination complaint may be filed if these stipulations are not met. The landlord or homeowner also cannot refuse to make changes in their rules, services or policies that will allow the handicapped person ease of use. However, the owner does not always have to make these allowances. Download our free housing guide to learn more.

How to File Housing Discrimination Complaints

Seniors may be wondering how to file a housing discrimination complaint with HUD if they have experienced any kind of discrimination while trying to procure housing or during their time in a dwelling. The housing discrimination complaint form will ask seniors to recount what happened to them. They will then have to list why they think the situation qualifies as discrimination. Seniors can either fill out a complaint form online or contact their local office. Seniors can also use the Multifamily Complaint Line if they are in a HUD-insured or assisted property and feel that their property managers have not dealt with maintenance issues properly or their residence is a danger to their health or safety. They can also contact this office for issues involving fraud. Seniors who are involved in HUD programs and feel that those programs discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity, should file a housing discrimination complaint with the LGBT Housing Discrimination section of HUD.

After the housing complaint has been filed it will be reviewed by a specialist who will decide if what occurred may have violated the Fair Housing Act. The specialist will also contact the senior if he or she needs any more details on the case. The specialist will assist the senior with filing an official housing discrimination complaint to submit if he or she determines that what occurred may have violated the Fair Housing Act. The information on the housing discrimination form may be given to the U.S. Department of Justice to file the suit. It may also be sent to state or local fair housing offices. The senior may choose whether he or she wishes to disclose the information on the form to the aforementioned agencies. If he or she does not wish to disclose this information, then it could delay the processing of the complaint or cause it to be denied altogether.

What Happens After the Housing Discrimination Complaint is Filed?

In most cases where housing discrimination complaints are filed, HUD will try to help the senior and the accused party reach an agreement. During the housing discrimination complaint process, HUD will send a conciliation agreement to the accused party, which will ask the accused party to pay a fine, provide fair housing and training for employees, revise policies, or something else to address the complaint. If it is signed, then HUD will not interfere any longer unless the agreement is broken. In that case, HUD will propose that the Attorney General file a suit.

In the case that the senior’s state has the same abilities to process the housing discrimination complaint as HUD, then HUD will send the complaint to the senior’s state agency. If the agency does not review the complaint within a certain timeframe, then HUD may pick the case up again.

Learn About the Results & Benefits of Filing a Housing Discrimination Complaint

If HUD investigates the housing discrimination complaint claim and believes that the senior was discriminated against, then a representative will contact the senior. The next step in the housing discrimination process is an administrative hearing within a certain number of days unless the senior or the accused party wants the case to be taken to a federal district court. In the administrative hearing, HUD attorneys will represent the senior but it is important for accusers to provide as much information about housing discrimination that occurred as evidence. Seniors can also choose to hire their own attorney if they wish. If the Administrative Law Judge determines that the senior was discriminated against, then the other party may be ordered to pay for actual damages, which may include humiliation, pain, and suffering. They may also have to make the housing available to the senior if that was the reason for the complaint.

If the housing discrimination complaint case goes to the federal district court, then the attorney general will file the suit and represent the senior. If the federal district court believes there has been housing discrimination, then it may order the accused party to pay actual damages and attorney fees.