As I have written many times before, HUD and its fair housing tester partners remain on watch looking for housing discrimination. To illustrate, owners of two New Jersey apartment buildings recently agreed to pay $21,000 to settle allegations of housing discrimination against African American apartment seekers.
Following an investigation, HUD charged one of the owners with violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by refusing to show apartments to or return the calls of a prospective resident after learning that he is an African American. HUD further alleged that: (a) the man contacted the owner to inquire about an apartment for rent; (b) the owner made an appointment to show the unit; (c) the owner confirmed the appointment minutes before; and (d) then failed to keep the appointment after learning the man’s race.
The apartment seeker then contacted a fair housing organization to test to determine if he indeed had been the victim of unlawful housing discrimination. The testing entity then conducted four sets of tests — each using Caucasian and African Americans. HUD claimed that the testing data proved that the apartment owner failed to appear for appointments and/or to return calls after he learned that a tester was African American. HUD alleged the owner would either arrive early to determine the race of the applicant or simply drive by to determine the race of the applicant.
Under the terms of the settlement, the owners agreed to pay $10,000 to the apartment seeker, $5,000 to the fair housing organization, and a $6,000 civil penalty to the United States. As is common in these cases, the agreement further requires the owners and their employees to complete fair housing training and implement a nondiscrimination policy.
This case is yet another reminder that HUD continues to use fair housing testers and has believed for some time now that testing remains the most effective tool for exposing illegal housing discrmination. Professional apartment owners and management need to be aware that testing continues to take place and to ensure our employees are trained to comply with the federal FHA and state anti discrimination laws.
Just A Thought.