Last month, HUD released data concerning the number of fair housing cases filed during 2010 as well as the protected classes alleged in many of those cases.  HUD reported that of the 10,155 complaints filed with the department and its partner agencies, 48 percent of the complaints alleged discrimination based on a disability, 34 percent alleged discrimination based on race, and 15 percent alleged discrimination based on familial status.  These percentages — including that disability remains the most cited protected class — are consistent with the number and type of complaints received during the previous three years.
Does this reflect that over 10,000 instances of housing discrimination took place during 2010?  Of course not.  The data also reveals that the vast majority of cases ultimately get dismissed or are amicably resolved.  To be fair, however, HUD and its fair housing tester partners will claim that they only become aware of a small percentage of discriminatory actions by management such that the actual number of people facing housing discrimination is higher.  I will leave it to you to decide who is right.
As I have also noted previously, under the law HUD is tasked to process the complaints within 100 days of filing.  The statistics reveal that less that half of the cases are actually completed during that time period (although it appears that more cases are being resolved during the 100 days than in previous years).  I would like to see that deadline given some real teeth in an effort to ensure that cases not remain open indefinitely — but so far my efforts have been unsuccessful.
What does this mean for professional property management companies?  HUD and its partners are out there looking for housing discrimination.  Don’t let your community get caught.  Follow the law.  Train your staff.  Ensure everyone is treated appropriately.  Document your interactions with residents and applicants.  And if a complaint comes, you will be well prepared to defend against it.
Just A Thought.