Take 10 Steps to Resolve Fair Housing Complaints

In the May 2019 lesson, Fair Housing Coach discusses what to do if your community is ever accused of a fair housing violation. The stakes have never been higher as federal, state, and local fair housing agencies, along with private fair housing organizations, continue to vigorously enforce fair housing laws.

Example: In March 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that a property management company has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle allegations that the company systematically discriminated against applicants and residents based on their race and whether they qualified for public assistance vouchers.

The settlement resolves allegations that the company violated Massachusetts fair housing, civil rights, and consumer protection laws through discriminatory leasing policies and practices in an effort to limit rentals at the 900-unit community to minority and low-income tenants. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to refuse to rent to, withhold housing accommodations from, or otherwise discriminate against a person based on his or her race, color, national origin, ancestry, or receipt of housing subsidies.

The company and its subsidiary were accused of carrying out coordinated discriminatory practices as part of an attempt to transform the property into what they viewed as a “premier gated apartment community” and ensure it was filled with tenants they deemed “fit the image.” Allegedly, the companies directed employees to use a variety of discriminatory methods to deter minority and low-income tenants, including treating them with hostility and disrespect and providing them with false and misleading information about the availability and pricing of apartments. The defendants also allegedly subjected tenants and applicants they deemed the “wrong type” to unfair and burdensome leasing procedures that were not applied to white applicants and tenants, including requesting extra proof of employment and documents like passports, visas, and Social Security cards from tenants based on their actual or perceived national origin.

“Access to safe, affordable housing is critical to ensuring economic security for all residents of Massachusetts and their families,” Healey said in a statement. “Today’s settlement demonstrates my office’s commitment to taking action against those who engage in discriminatory conduct that creates unfair barriers to housing.”

For more information, see the Coach’s May 2019 lesson, “10 Key Steps for Resolving Fair Housing Complaints,” available to our subscribers here.