Fair Housing Complaint Processing; Plain Language Revision and Reorganization

OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

24 CFR Part 103
[Docket No. FR-4433-I-01] RIN 2529-AA86 Reorganization

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, HUD.

ACTION: Interim rule.

SUMMARY: This interim rule revises HUD's regulations that concern the processing of fair housing complaints in two ways. First, the current sections that address the filing of complaints have been rewritten using plain language. Plain language is an approach to writing that promotes responsive, accessible, and understandable written communication. Second, the sections that address the investigation of complaints have been moved to another place in the regulations. We are revising these regulations to make the procedures for filing housing discrimination complaints easier to understand. This rule does not change the substance of the existing fair housing complaint processing regulations.

DATES: Effective Date: May 14, 1999. Comments Due Date: Comments must be submitted by June 14, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments regarding this interim rule to the Rules Docket Clerk, Office of the General Counsel, Room 10276, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20410-0500. Comments should refer to the above docket number and title. A copy of each comment submitted will be available for public inspection and copying between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm weekdays at the above address. Facsimile (FAX) comments will not be accepted.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Judith Keeler, Acting Director, Office of Enforcement, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20410-2000; telephone (202) 708-0836 (this is not a toll-free number). Hearing or speech impaired individuals may access this number via TTY by calling the toll-free Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background
   Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-284, 82 Stat. 81, approved April 11, 1968, codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. 3601-3619) (the Fair Housing Act) prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status. To enforce this prohibition, the Fair Housing Act authorizes HUD to receive and investigate housing discrimination complaints.

    In 1988, the Fair Housing Amendments Act (Public Law 100-430, 102 Stat. 1619, approved September 13, 1988) (the 1988 Act) expanded HUD's authority to initiate fair housing investigations and to file complaints. We implemented the 1988 Act through final regulations published on January 23, 1989 (54 FR 3232). The January 23, 1989 final rule, among other things, established a new 24 CFR part 103. Part 103 describes the policies and procedures that govern the processing of fair housing complaints.

    This rule revises subpart B (entitled ``Complaints'') of the part 103 regulations in two ways. First, the sections in subpart B that address the filing of complaints have been rewritten using plain language. Second, the sections in subpart B that address the investigation of complaints have been moved to subpart D (entitled ``Investigation Procedures''). Subpart D concerns investigation procedures for fair housing complaints.

Plain Language
     HUD has revised 24 CFR part 103, subpart B using plain language in response to President Clinton's Memorandum of June 1, 1998, entitled ``Plain Language in Government'' (63 FR 31885, Wednesday, June 10, 1998). In this memorandum, President Clinton directed Federal agencies to use plain language in all government writing. With respect to rules, President Clinton directed Federal agencies to use plain language in new proposed and final rules beginning January 1, 1999. In the same memorandum, President Clinton also urged Federal agencies to consider rewriting existing regulations in plain language, as resources permit.

    Plain language is an approach to writing that promotes responsive, accessible, and understandable written communications. It involves the use of a number of writing tools to create documents that are visually inviting, logically organized, and understandable on the first reading.

These writing tools include:
--Using the active voice and strong verbs;
--Using compact sentences;
--Using personal pronouns such as ``you'' and ``we'';
--Using common, everyday words;
--Avoiding surplus words and technical or legal jargon;
--Using tables to present information where appropriate; and
--Using a design and layout that increases comprehension.

    We selected subpart B of 24 CFR part 103 as the first of our regulations to be rewritten in plain language format, because it is important that regulations addressing housing discrimination be easy to understand.

    For more information about plain language, please contact the National Partnership for Reinventing Government using one of the following methods: