Washington, DC

Settlement reached in allegations of discrimination against Hispanic tenants

May 10, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday that a Nashville apartment complex will pay more than $170,000 as part of a settlement resolving allegations that it discriminated against Hispanic tenants based on their national origin.
     The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to impose different rental terms and conditions based on national origin, race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
     “Since 1968, the Fair Housing Act has prohibited national origin discrimination, including evicting tenants or denying them service because of their ancestry,” said John Trasviña, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Central to HUD’s mission is to ensure that every person has the right to housing free from discrimination. Today’s settlement advances that goal.”

DOJ announces fair housing settlement with Oregon developer

May 09, 2013
The Justice Department announced today that Oregon developer David Montagne and others affiliated with him have agreed to pay $80,000 and remove accessibility barriers at Gateway Village, a 275 unit apartment complex in Salem, Oregon, to settle a lawsuit alleging that they had violated the Fair Housing Act by building the complex with steps and other features that made it inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
     Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, Montagne and the other developers, Montagne Development Company, Gateway II LLC, Dav II Investment Group LLC and William Jones, must take extensive actions to make the complex accessible to persons with disabilities. These corrective actions include removing steps from sidewalks, widening interior doorways, reducing threshold heights, replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks, and installing properly sloped curb ramps to allow persons with disabilities to access the sidewalks from the parking areas. In addition, these defendants will pay $48,000 to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, whose investigation revealed the violations and which intervened in the United States’ lawsuit, and $32,000 to establish a settlement fund for the purpose of compensating disabled individuals impacted by the accessibility violations. This settlement does not resolve the entire lawsuit. The case continues against the defendant that provided design and engineering services for Gateway Village, Multi/Tech Engineering.

HUD and Suntrust settle maternity leave discrimination claims

May 09, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has reached two Conciliation Agreements with SunTrust Mortgage, Inc., settling allegations that the Richmond, VA-based lender denied mortgage loans to a couple in Port St. Lucie, FL, and another couple in Ashland, VA, because the women were on maternity leave.
     The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in residential real estate-related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. These prohibitions include denying a mortgage because a person is pregnant or takes maternity or paternity leave.
     “A woman’s maternity status should not determine whether or not she receives a mortgage loan,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from denying home loans to women because they are pregnant or on maternity leave and HUD is committed to taking action against lenders engaged in discriminatory practices.”

ERC fights housing discrimination against individuals using guide dogs

May 08, 2013
2013 The Equal Rights Center (ERC), a national civil rights organization, has filed two lawsuits for violations of the federal Fair Housing Act and local laws that ensure individuals with disabilities who use service animals have equal access to housing. ERC v. Patriot Realty et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today; ERC v. Detrick Plaza Apartments et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on April 23rd.
     In each case, trained ERC testers who are blind and use a guide dog were either told by rental agents that their guide dog would not be permitted at the property, or that they would be subject to additional costs or requirements because of their guide dog.
     “Tens of thousands of individuals who are blind or visually impaired use guide dogs, and thousands more people with disabilities use other types of assistance animals,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center. “Refusing to allow guide dogs, or imposing additional costs or other requirements on people because of their guide dogs, denies people who are blind or visually impaired their right to secure housing of their choice.”

DOJ and HUD release new guidance on "design and construction" requirements under the fair housing act

May 01, 2013
New guidance released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice reinforces the Fair Housing Act requirement that multifamily housing be designed and constructed so as to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
     The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex and familial status. The Fair Housing Act also requires that multifamily housing with four or more units, built for first occupancy after March 1991, contain accessible features for persons with disabilities.
     The new guidance is designed to help design professionals, developers and builders better understand their obligations and help persons with disabilities better understand their rights regarding the “design and construction” requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.

HUD settles discrimination claim with Coldwell Banker residential brokerage and home seller

April 15, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today a $90,000 Conciliation Agreement with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and the seller of a home in Worcester, Massachusetts, settling allegations they violated the Fair Housing Act by preventing the sale of a house to be used as a group home for persons with disabilities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental or sales transactions based on disability, including preventing a home sale because the home is going to be used by persons with disabilities.
     “HUD is committed to promoting housing opportunities for people with disabilities in mainstream settings,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “We’re pleased the parties in this case were willing to resolve this matter in a way that advances that goal.”
     HUD General Counsel Helen Kanovsky added, “This case emphasizes that no one is above the law. Sellers of property, as well as their real estate agents and law firms who assist them, are all required to adhere to the Fair Housing Act.”

First fair housing app launched

March 04, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled the first housing discrimination mobile application (app) for iPhone and iPad. Developed by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) and Hewlett Packard (HP), the app uses the latest technology to provide the public with a quick and easy way to learn about their housing rights and to file housing discrimination complaints, and inform the housing industry about its responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.
     The app will also be an important tool to assist fair housing groups and other civil rights advocacy organizations in their efforts to help individuals pursue their housing rights and industry to educate their members on their responsibilities. Several groups indicated their intent to promote the app with their members and in communities where they work, including MomsRising, Illinois Department of Human Rights, Access Living, League of United Latin American Citizens, Asian Real Estate Association of America, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

HUD issues rule formalizing standard on discriminatory effects in housing

February 11, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is issuing a final rule to formalize the national standard for determining whether a housing practice violates the Fair Housing Act as the result of discriminatory effect.
     “Through the issuance of this Rule,HUD is reaffirming its commitment to enforcing the Fair Housing Act in a consistent and uniform manner,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “This will ensure the continued strength of one of the most important tools for exposing and ending housing discrimination.”
     HUD is statutorily charged with the authority and responsibility for interpreting and enforcing the Fair Housing Act and has long interpreted the Act to prohibit housing practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect, if those acts actually or predictably result in a disparate impact on a group of persons, or create, increase, reinforce, or perpetuate segregated housing patterns because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

Equal rights center lauds new HUD disparate impact regulations

February 11, 2013
The Equal Rights Center (ERC)—a national non-profit civil rights organization with 30 years of experience advancing equal housing opportunity—issued the following statement in support of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) new regulations implementing the Fair Housing Act’s ‘discriminatory effects’ standard:
     “This clear guidance from HUD on when the effects of a housing practice, policy or action violate the Fair Housing Act creates a uniform standard that can be understood and followed by housing providers and managers, real estate brokers, lenders, insurers, private housing organizations, and the courts,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center. “We hope that this will lead to fewer barriers, whether intentional or unintentional, to equal housing opportunity for all.”
     Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibits both intentional discriminatory acts, and facially neutral policies whose effect is to limit housing opportunities based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex or for families with children and people with disabilities.

PNC Mortgage settles maternity discrimination case

February 08, 2013
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced an agreement with PNC Mortgage in Trumbull, Conn., settling allegations that the lender violated the Fair Housing Act by requiring a home loan applicant on paid maternity leave to return to work before the lender would approve a home loan.
     HUD's complaint alleged that because PNC required the woman, a U.S. Navy veteran, to return to work before approving the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-guaranteed loan, she and her husband could not close on their new home in Newington, Conn., until a month later than they had planned. As a result, the seller of the home allegedly required the couple to pay an additional $3,000 for the delay.
     Under the agreement with HUD, PNC will pay $15,000 to the couple and review applications for VA-guaranteed residential mortgage loans filed in the last two years in Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New York to identify qualified loan seekers whose applications were denied because they were pregnant or on maternity leave. PNC will pay $7,500 to each victim who is identified.

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