Housing Authority Settles Complaint Involving Deaf Resident

In early December, HUD announced that the Houston Housing Authority agreed to settle allegations of disability discrimination for initially refusing a deaf resident’s requests to have a sign language interpreter present at a hearing to determine her eligibility to remain in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Furthermore, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 bans discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in any program or activity receiving federal funds.

In her complaint, the resident claimed that she twice asked the housing authority to provide a translator for the hearing, but none was provided. She said she was forced to use her daughter, who is a minor and is not fluent in American Sign Language, to interpret for her, and that the complex nature of her HCV eligibility hearing prevented her daughter from effectively interpreting for her. The outcome of the hearing was that the resident’s housing assistance was terminated.

After the resident filed a complaint with HUD, the housing authority held a second hearing, during which an interpreter was provided. Following the second hearing, the resident’s housing assistance was reinstated.

Under the agreement, the housing authority paid $4,251 in rental assistance payments that were owed to the resident's landlord for the period her rental assistance was terminated. The housing authority also notified its employees of its intent to provide sign language interpreters for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, agreed to inform new HCV program participants of their right to request reasonable accommodations, including interpreters, and agreed not to retaliate against the resident or her children in any way.

“Everyone should be able to understand their housing rights and options," said Mark Brezina, HUD's Acting Region VI Administrator, said in a statement. "For a deaf person receiving HUD rental assistance, a Public Housing Authority may need to provide an interpreter to convey information, particularly when a person's continued tenancy is at stake."

For more information, see the November 2012 lesson, “How to Comply with Fair Housing Law When Dealing with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing,” available on our homepage or in our online Archive.

Source: HUD