I got a question earlier this week which involved the intersection of housing and employment discrimination.  While many of the concepts contained in our federal fair housing laws (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) are similar to those that prevent employment discrimination (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), there is one important difference that sometimes gets overlooked.  In the employment arena, before a complaint can be filed – a putative plaintiff must receive what is known as a “right to sue” letter.  This “right to sue” letter is jurisdictional and demonstrates that the party has exhausted his or her administrative remedies.  That “right to sue” letter must be obtained before filing an employment discrimination complaint in court.

In housing, unlike employment, it is not necessary to file an administrative claim or to obtain a “right to sue” letter.  A person or entity claiming housing discrimination can certainly file a complaint with HUD (or a state, city, or county agency) — and there are many reasons to file an administrative complaint — there is no requirement in the law to do so.  While the investigatory agency will review the facts and attempt to resolve the matter without cost to the complainant, if the allegations are ultimately found to be without merit and the complaint is dismissed, that will end the matter.  The department or agency will not issue a “right to sue” letter.

Also, administrative claims generally must be filed within one year of the challenged housing practice.  Housing discrimination complaints can be filed in court up to two years after the alleged discriminatory practice.  To be sure, if an administrative complaint is filed, the time the case is pending with HUD (or the state, city, or county entity) will not count against the statute of limitations.

Hope that clears it up.

Just A Thought.