What You Should Know before Filing a Fair Housing Claim

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What You Should Know before Filing a Fair Housing Claim

Staff Writer · Mar 15, 2010

Fair housing laws are a set of laws enacted in 1968 that prohibit discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of residences based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. The Fair Housing Act, including its enforcement and any complaints, is managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Prior to filing a Fair Housing Claim, however, there are several things to consider.

Is Your Claim Timely?

The Act has a statute of limitations within which any claim must be filed. Renters must file their claim within two years of the violation in federal court, and within one year to pursue it through the HUD. If the facts supporting your claim occurred prior to these timeframes, your case or complaint will be dismissed.

Consider the Facts

What are your reasons for filing a claim? For a successful fair housing claim you must be able to show that the landlord’s actions were based on race, religion or one of the other reasons protected by the act. Filing a claim because you seek revenge or are angry will be pointless because you will be unsuccessful.

Consider Your Ability to Prove the Facts

Do you have evidence of the alleged discrimination? Whether in court or a HUD office, notes, phone records or written letters will be needed to prove your case. Without these, your case will be extremely difficult and longer, and the chances for success decrease. If all you have are feelings of discrimination, seriously analyze the facts to see if you actually have a case or are just angry.

Review Your Date and Check Books

A fair housing claim can take between one to three years until resolution. If you file in federal court you may also have to pay court and other fees in the pursuit of your case.  While these fees may be recoverable, this is not guaranteed. Seriously consider whether you have the funds and time to pursue your claim and whether any recovery would be worthwhile when these factors are included.

Is Talking an Option?

Consider whether you should speak with the landlord about your concerns and complaints. It may be that opening the lines of communication will resolve the issue more amicably, faster and cheaper than filing a formal complaint. HUD requires that the landlord and tenant attempt to resolve the problems prior to holding a formal hearing. Of course, if you think that speaking with your landlord prior to filing a claim will cause more problems, you may want to wait until you have the HUD on your side before holding a meeting. If you do speak with the landlord prior to filing a claim, take notes for future use.

Learn Fair Housing Basics

Prior to filing your claim, you should learn the basics of the Act to ensure that you know the basics and are prepared for the future. For example, certain buildings and age groups are exempt from the Fair Housing Act, and research may reveal that the Act does not apply to your circumstances. An informational pamphlet may be available from your local HUD office free of charge. Doing basic research may prevent future problems and save you time.

A Fair Housing Claim takes time and in some cases money. Being knowledgeable about the Act, taking notes and not expecting a quick resolution are essential to filing a claim. Do not let the intricacies of filing a claim deter you, though, because a viable and supported claim will prevent discrimination against yourself and others.

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