As a part of every fair housing action, the investigator assigned to the case ALWAYS asks if management wants to settle (or conciliate) the complaint. To be sure, it is in the Fair Housing Act that HUD (and the various state, city, and county agencies) are to work to bring the parties together. I am told that there will be some agreed upon relief for the complainant and there will be a few “standard” public interest provisions in an agreement.
While I am certainly not adverse to amicably resolving a case in the appropriate circumstance, I ALWAYS tell my clients to: (a) listen to what the complainant wants/demands; and (2) carefully review any language in an agreement.
Some complainants think their fair housing case represents lottery winnings. Almost all of them are wrong. And most of the investigators let them know that a $100,000 check is not coming their way – even if management made a good faith mistake. Indeed, when a complaint looks for the big payday, it can make the investigator a bit more skeptical when evaluating the allegations.
Furthermore, contrary to what you may be told, the “standard” language varies from each investigator and each agency. In truth, nothing is standard and the provisions always change. Trust me, I have a stack of agreements in my files – and ALL of them are different. All agencies negotiate settlement terms. You will find that some are more willing to alter or amend provisions than are others.
Also, as a tactical matter, there are times when I am willing to resolve a case, but I want the complainant to withdraw the allegations. There are situations when I find withdrawal of a charge with prejudice to be extremely effective.
There are many reasons to amicably conclude a fair housing case, including controlling litigation defense costs and the risks associated with the claims. That being said, there are many times when settlement just cannot happen and we take the case to the end. No two cases are alike and there is no cookie cutter advice on whether management should settle a claim. But I can say that a careful evaluation of the facts and circumstances leading up to the charge is important. Additionally, management’s written record and the file of the resident/applicant are critical to our defense of the action.
Just a Thought.