Enforcement of fair housing laws is governed by a number of different agencies, depending upon the location of the housing. Tenants have options of where to file a fair housing complaint based on where they live. Tenants in jurisdictions served by multiple fair housing agencies can file with the closest agency, and may choose to file with HUD as well. Applicants and tenants have one year from the date of the incident of discrimination to file a fair housing complaint against the landlord or property management company.
Once a discrimination complaint has been filed, the general process of investigation follows the path outlined below. Specific steps and time frames will vary.
- The respondents (landlord or property manager) are required to respond to the complaint within a brief time, generally ten days. The fair housing agency will attempt to negotiate a resolution between the two parties throughout the process. They may initiate a dispute resolution process to work for a voluntary settlement of the case.
- Fair housing agencies are neutral fact-finders who gather and evaluate evidence regarding the complaint. They may interview witnesses, review documentation and conduct on-site visits in an attempt to understand and evaluate the position of each side.
- Once all available evidence has been reviewed, the agency will issue a final written report, or finding. If the investigation failed to discover sufficient evidence of discrimination, they will issue a “no cause” finding and close the case. The complaining party may appeal or request reconsideration, and the respondent will be given an opportunity to respond to the appeal.
- If sufficient evidence has been discovered to support the discrimination complaint, they will issue a “reasonable cause” finding and assist the parties to find reconciliation in the matter. If there can be no settlement agreed upon, the case may be referred to the fair housing agency’s legal department (or the Attorney General’s office, in state cases through the Washington State Human Rights Commission). There may be an administrative process or court hearing.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.