Although the economic and personal impact of the global pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, I am seeing HUD (as well as various state, city, and county agencies) ramping up efforts on pending housing discrimination complaints. As a part of the Fair Housing Act, investigators are dual tasked when a complaint is filed: (1) to investigate; and (2) to conciliate (legalese for attempt to settle). Sometimes the process goes on at the same time. Sometimes we will try conciliation prior to going through a formal investigation.
From management’s side, there can be any number of reasons to find an early (and amicable) resolution to a complaint, including cost savings, certainty, efficiency, and the ability to move forward with business and not have to respond to emails/calls from a lawyer like me. Now, make no mistake, there are some cases that simply will not settle – such as when unfounded allegations are made by a disgruntled resident/former resident who seeks lottery size winnings – and I will absolutely defend them until I get a No Probable Cause dismissal. Alternatively, the agency may demand extensive reporting for multiple years and/or a donation to a local fair housing group which makes settling a case untenable for ownership.
My point with this post, however, is if you engage in settlement discussions – take a good look at the “boilerplate” and “public interest” provisions in your proposed agreement. Most every investigator will tell you these provisions are “standard” and required in every deal. But, as someone who has done these with HUD as well as many states can affirm – boilerplate is always different. And many times it can be changed. Indeed, even HUD agreements from different regions can have different requirements. Just remember it is NOT one size fits all. And you may want to have a lawyer like me take a look to talk through the facts of the case and what your investigator seeks in an effort to determine if the terms are appropriate.
Just A Thought.