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How Do I File A Housing Discrimination Complaint?

The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It was amended in 1988 by the Fair Housing Amendments Act to include

• expanded coverage which prohibited discrimination based on disability or on familial status (presence of child under age of 18, and pregnant women);
• established new administrative enforcement mechanisms with United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) attorneys bringing actions before administrative law judges on behalf of victims of housing discrimination; and
• revised and expanded the Justice Department jurisdiction in bringing suits on behalf of victims in Federal district courts.

With HUD expanded enforcement role beyond investigation and conciliation, it has resulted in new complaints that are investigated by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). If a complaint is not successfully conciliated then FHEO will determine whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred. The Housing and Urban Development will notify the complainant with the issuance of Determination as well as a Charge of Discrimination in cases where reasonable cause is found and a hearing is scheduled before a HUD administrative law judge. However, either party the complainant or respondent can terminate the HUD proceeding and opt to file a lawsuit and have it litigated in Federal Court. In that case, the Department of Justice will act as counsel for HUD and seek resolution for the aggrieved parties.

It was the landmark case of Jones v. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968) that barred race as a factor in a rental or sale of property public or private. In this case the petitioner Joseph Lee Jones, a Negro filed a complaint in the District Court alleging that respondent a real estate company, Alfred H. Mayer Co. refused to sell him a home in a particular neighborhood because of his race and sought injunctive and other relief. The petitioner and his wife relied in part on 42 U.S.C. 1982, which provides that all citizens “shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.”

The District Court dismissed the complaint and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision holding that Section 1982 applies only to state actions and does not reach private refusals to sell. The case was argued before the Supreme Court on April 1st and 2nd in 1968, with the question before the Justices being whether purely private discrimination unaided by any governmental action violates Section 1982 as well as to determine the scope and constitutionality of the Act of Congress under the Thirteenth Amendment.

The Court in siding with Jones determined that it was Congress intention in Section 1982 to prohibit all discrimination against blacks in the sale and rental of public and private property and the Thirteenth Amendment authorized Congress to “do more than merely dissolve the legal bond by which the Negro slave was held to his master; it gave Congress the power rationally to determine what are the badges and the incidents of slavery and the authority to translate that determination into effective legislation.”

Thus, Congress was acting within its scope in enacting legislation eliminating racial barriers in the sale or rental of private and public property.

It is important to note that although this writing focuses on HUD, there are many other forms of housing discrimination and depending upon the types of housing discrimination complaints may be filed with other federal, state and local government agencies.

If you believe that, you are the victim of housing discrimination, contact The Sanders Firm, P.C. in New York. We will review your claim thoroughly, providing you with an outline of possible actions you may wish to take. We are ready to be your voice for justice.