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Know Your Rights: Understanding Fair Housing Laws & Housing Discrimination

January 24th, 2018 5:59 AM by Jackie A. Graves

Home buyers and mortgage borrowers in the U.S. are protected from discrimination under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which is called The Fair Housing Act. Here is an overview of the Fair Housing Act so you’re aware of your rights.

Purpose of the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act Is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), and outlaws housing discrimination.

When it comes to selling a home, HUD says that no one can take the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or the presence of children:

  • Refuse to sell a home
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Offer different home purchase terms

When it comes to financing a home, HUD says that no one can take the following actions based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or the presence of children:

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan
  • Discriminate in appraising property
  • Offer different mortgage rates, points, or fees

HUD maintains a full list of discriminatory actions outlawed in home selling and mortgage lending.

How to File a Fair Housing Complaint

If you feel your rights have been violated, you should file a Fair Housing Complaint with HUD.

You can complete a Housing Discrimination Complaint Form and submit it online.

Or you can file a complaint by visiting or calling your nearest HUD office.

And if you’re disabled, HUD provides a toll-free TTY phone for the hearing impaired (800-927-9275) as well as interpreters, tapes and braille materials, and assistance in reading and completing forms.

In addition to providing all your contact information, as well as the name, company name, and address of the person who you believe discriminated against you, you will also need to provide details about your complaint. Below is an excerpt of what HUD asks you to provide:

  • What happened to you? How were you discriminated against? For example: Were you refused an opportunity to buy housing? Denied a loan? Told that housing was not available when in fact it was? Treated differently from others seeking housing? State briefly what happened.
  • Why do you believe you are being discriminated against? For example: Were you denied housing because of your race? Were you denied a mortgage loan because of your religion? Were you harassed because you assisted someone in obtaining their fair housing rights? Briefly explain why you think your housing rights were denied.

Process After You File a Fair Housing Complaint

After you file a complaint, HUD will inform the alleged violator about your complaint and investigate to determine if the Fair Housing Act was in fact violated.

HUD can take up to 100 days to process this investigation, but if you don’t have that much time, you can ask for an immediate review.

HUD can expedite your case by allowing the Attorney General to litigate your case if the evidence of discrimination is substantial and you can prove irreparable harm will occur without immediate HUD assistance. HUD’s Fair Housing site uses this example of a case that might be expedited:

“A builder agrees to sell a house but, after learning the buyer is black, fails to keep the agreement. The buyer files a complaint with HUD. HUD may authorize the Attorney General to go to court to prevent a sale to any other buyer until HUD investigates the complaint.”

If discrimination is determined to have occurred once a case is litigated — whether it’s expedited or follows the normal timeline — the violator (which HUD calls the respondent) may face the following consequences:

  • Compensate you for actual damages, including humiliation, pain and suffering.
  • Pay Federal civil penalties up to $16,000 for a first violation and up to $70,000 for a third violation in seven years.
  • Pay attorney’s fees.

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Posted by Jackie A. Graves on January 24th, 2018 5:59 AM

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