What Happens When there is a Violation of the Fair Housing Act?

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

When a person believes their fair housing rights have been violated they can contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who is the administrative agency responsible for investigating and enforcing the FHA. Such a tenant can contact the HUD by letter, fax, e-mail, or phone or by filing a Complaint on the form provided by HUD on its web site. A Complaint must be filed within one year after an alleged violation of the FHA to be valid.

When a Complaint is timely filed, HUD personnel interview the tenant, the landlord and any other persons who have relevant information, as well as generally investigate the allegations and determine whether a violation of the FHA has occurred. Additionally, when a Complaint is filed the landlord has an opportunity to provide a written Answer as well as any other persons or information that is relevant to the investigation.

HUD completes it investigation of the matter and issues a determination whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that the FHA has been violated. When reasonable cause is determined HUD attempts to reach a conciliation agreement with the landlord in an effort to protect both the tenant and the public interest. When a conciliation agreement is signed HUD will take no further action against the landlord unless it believes the landlord has breached the conciliation agreement.

In many instances a conciliation agreement cannot be reached. When this occurs HUD schedules an administrative hearing within 120 days of its determining reasonable cause. Alternatively, either the tenant or the landlord can opt to have the case heard in Federal District Court.

If the case goes to an administrative hearing HUD attorneys litigate the case on behalf of the tenant or the tenant can elect to use his/her own attorney. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) considers the evidence from the tenant and the landlord. If the ALJ decides that discrimination occurred, the landlord can be ordered:

  • To compensate the tenant for actual damages, including humiliation, pain and suffering;
  • To provide injunctive or other equitable relief;
  • To pay the Federal Government a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest (the maximum penalties are $10,000 for a first violation and $50,000 for a third violation within seven years); and
  • To pay all reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with the administrative hearing.

If the tenant or the landlord opts to have the case heard in Federal District Court, the US Attorney General files the suit and litigates on behalf of the tenant at no cost to the tenant. The Federal District Court can provide the same awards of actual damages, attorney fees and costs as the ALJ. Additionally, the Federal District Court can also award punitive damages.

If you are a landlord or a tenant and you have questions about how the Fair Housing Act affects you, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate questions and will help you solve your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate needs.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.

Posted in:
Published on:

Comments are closed.

Contact Information