May 2022 Coach's Quiz
A tenant who hasn’t paid rent in three months files a fair housing complaint against you. What should you do?
a. Evict her immediately for suing you
b. Evict her immediately for not paying rent
c. Allow her to remain in the apartment rent-free until the fair housing complaint is resolved
d. Treat her as you would any other tenant who hasn’t paid rent in three months
It’s advisable to at least consider resolving a fair housing complaint via conciliation:
a. Any time HUD investigates you for a fair housing complaint
b. Only if you do an internal investigation and determine the complainant has a strong case
c. Only when you’re sure the complainant is sincere and not simply trying to shake you down for settlement money
COACH’S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: d
Reason: The principles discussed in Pitfall 7 apply to this situation
Pitfall 7: Retaliating Against People Who File Fair Housing Complaints
Failure to pay rent is clearly grounds for eviction. But evicting a tenant in retaliation for filing a fair housing complaint is against the law. The way to resolve this seeming contradiction is to apply your normal, nondiscriminatory rules the same way you would with any other tenant who commits the same offense. So, d. is the right answer. Caveat: To the extent that the tenant’s fair housing claim and risk of liability for retaliation pose a special wrinkle, it would be prudent to talk to an attorney before starting eviction proceedings in this particular case.
Wrong answers explained:
a. is wrong because evicting a tenant for making a discrimination complaint or exercising any other fair housing right is a direct form of retaliation banned by the FHA.
b. is wrong to the extent it suggests that the decision to evict for nonpayment would be a pretext for retaliation. After all, why didn’t you try to evict her before she complained about discrimination, HUD will ask. Remember that if retaliation is just one factor for evicting or taking other unfavorable action against a tenant, the entire action is illegal even if there are also legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the decision.
c. is wrong because the ban on retaliation doesn’t give tenants who file fair housing complaints license to default on their rent or commit other lease violations. However, the timing—that is, the fact that you seek eviction after a discrimination complaint is filed—automatically raises suspicion of retaliation. So, you must be able to show that the decision to evict is solely for legitimate, nonretaliatory reasons, such as nonpayment of rent.
Correct answer: a
Reason: The principles discussed in Pitfall 6 come into play in this situation
Pitfall 6: Categorically Refusing to Settle
The simple fact is that going to court or a HUD ALJ to defend yourself against a fair housing complaint is not only risky but also expensive. Even when you win you lose, given how mounting a legal defense is such an enormous suck of money, time, and energy. Conciliation enables you to keep cases out of court. And even though there’s usually a cost to pay, the price tag of resolving cases is usually much less than defending, let alone losing, them. For that reason, a. is the correct answer, and you should at least consider the conciliation option any time you’re the subject of a HUD fair housing complaint and investigation.
Wrong answers explained:
b. sounds good to the extent that conciliation does, in fact, become a more attractive option when you think the case against you is strong. But the question isn’t when you should settle but when you should consider settling. For that reason, b. is wrong.
c. is wrong even though it captures the way some landlords approach the settlement question. While perfectly understandable, the rigid unwillingness to settle with those who file nuisance cases ignores the realities of the legal system and the fact that settlement is often the cheapest and simplest solution. Automatically dismissing the option out of principle is tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Responding to Fair Housing Complaints