BARRISTER'S BRIEFING: HUD Releases New Guidance on Fair Housing Protections
Leon Cameron, Esq. | October 2016
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Sept. 15, 2016 issued “Limited English Proficiency” (LEP) guidance that addresses how the Fair Housing Act would apply to claims of housing discrimination brought by LEP persons who do not happen to speak, read, or write English proficiently.
Housing providers are therefore prohibited from using limited English proficiency selectively or as an excuse for intentional housing discrimination. The law also prohibits landlords from using limited English proficiency in a way that causes an unjustified discriminatory effect.
The guidance addresses how various legal approaches, such as discriminatory effects and disparate treatment, apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing-related decision—such as a landlord’s refusal to rent or renew a lease—involves a person’s limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English.
Discriminatory practices, for example, could include applying a language-related requirement to people of certain races or nationalities; posting advertisements that contain blanket statements, such as “all tenants must speak English;” or immediately turning away applicants who are not fluent in English. Targeting racial or national origin groups for scams related to housing also constitutes intentional discrimination.
A housing provider also violates the Fair Housing Act when the provider’s policies or practices have an unjustified discriminatory effect, even when the provider had not intended to discriminate. Determining whether a practice has a discriminatory effect involves a three-step legal evaluation of the statistical evidence of a discriminatory effect; whether the housing provider’s policy or practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest; and, if so, whether there is a less discriminatory alternative policy or practice.
In addition to the new LEP guidance, which is limited to the Fair Housing Act, HUD published in 2007 a “Notice of Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons.”
Any person who believes they have suffered fair housing discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at 1-(800) 669-9777 or may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing.
Editor’s Note: The foregoing article is for informational purposes only and does not confer an attorney/client relationship. For a legal opinion specific to your situation, please consult a private attorney.