Imagine you pick up the mail one afternoon and as you’re sifting through the pizza advertisements and bills, you find something from Housing and Urban Development. Mildly alarmed, you open the envelope and find a notification that a Fair Housing complaint has been filed against you.
What does this mean?
How Complaints are Filed
Receiving a complaint doesn’t necessarily mean you have broken the law. It only means someone has filed a complaint.
Fair Housing complaints can be filed by anyone with a computer, telephone or pen, however the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does follow up. They confirm that the complainant is really alleging that a violation of fair housing laws has taken place. They also determine whether that violation is in their jurisdiction before taking the next step. [Link to BMRE9 blog]
If HUD accepts the complaint then their investigator will fill out a standard form and submit it to the complainant to sign. You’ll only hear about it after the form has been signed.
How HUD Notifies the Property Owner
HUD notifies the person the complaint is made against by mail within 10 days of the signing of the complaint. This person is known as the respondent. Along with this notice, the respondent will receive a copy of the complaint form.
As the respondent, you must respond to the complaint within 10 days of receiving it. HUD will interview you, the complainant and any relevant witnesses in the case.
Resolving the Case
Fair Housing laws require HUD to attempt to bring the parties together in a process called conciliation, where the complainant and respondent work out an agreement to resolve the case. As the respondent, you can decline this process and let the investigator decide whether a violation did indeed take place.
If the investigator determines that a law has been broken, the case is assigned to a HUD Administrative Law Judge.
When the Case Goes to Federal Civil Court
The case can be resolved by HUD, but they are not the end of the line if either party is unsatisfied. The complainant or the respondent can elect to have the case heard in a federal civil court at several points during this process. Visit HUD’s Title VIII Fair Housing Complaint Process page to learn more.
Remember that if a complaint should be filed against one of our clients, we are here to help. We specialize in managing everything to do with your property investments and we do everything possible to make sure you never get that letter in the first place.