The regulations governing our Fair Housing Act are clear that (in almost all cases), an administrative housing discrimination complaint must be investigated within 100 days of being filed. The task of HUD (or the state, city, or county partner agency assigned to handle the complaint) is to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred. The goal, of course, is to address issues at (or as close to) the time in which they took place. That way memories are fresh and details are not lost to time. The 100 day deadline makes good sense and all parties benefit from it.
Now, is the 100 day deadline always followed in the real world? Unfortunately, no. HUD and its partner agencies routinely carry what is known as an “aged” caseload. Sure, the regulations provide that Respondents (my clients) get what is known as a “100 day letter” which indicates why the investigation is taking so long to complete. I have a stack of them. But my docket (as well as the agency dockets) regularly contain cases which pass the 100 day mark. To illustrate, in fiscal year 2013, there were 1,210 cases at HUD that were still active after the 100 day mark. That number increased from 2012 (although down from 1,353 aged cases back in 2007). Old cases are just a fact of life in our business.
Now, are there times in which my side is responsible for a delay? Sure. But not in the vast majority of cases. And I am not talking about a case which needs an extra month or two to close. That, of course, would not be an issue. Indeed, I have one case which has been pending for close to three years now in which I just received a call from my investigator. Without remorse, he asked a detailed question about one line on page five of my 2011 response. You will not be shocked that I did not have that response on my desk. And after pulling the file, I learned that the leasing office staff member involved at the time no longer works for my client and that we, in fact, sold the property in 2013. See why the 100 day rule can be important? Everyone is unnecessarily prejudiced by this kind of delay. Yes, I know federal and state budgets are tight. But I am really stuck here.
I know what some of you are thinking. File a Motion to Dismiss the case as stale or for failure to prosecute. Good thought. Unfortunately, the 100 day time limit in the regulations does not give management any substantive rights to dismiss old cases. Although there are times I sure wish it did.
Just A Thought.