One of the most common reasons more victims of discrimination do not file fair housing complaints is fear of retaliation. Fearful residents believe that the fair housing complaint process includes HUD immediately notifying the landlord of the complaint against him. If this were true, it would make sense to be concerned about how a landlord might treat the resident while the complaint was being reviewed. Most people wrongly believe that once they file, the landlord will find out and then they could be evicted.
Here Is the Truth: The Landlord, property owner, or whoever is being accused of housing discrimination, would never know a fair housing complaint was filed against them…until it was too late!
A complaint filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] starts its life as an “Inquiry” which is the official HUD word for a newly filed claim. HUD will send the “complainant,” the person who filed the inquiry, a letter stating the inquiry is being reviewed by HUD. The inquiry, at this point, has not been officially vetted or approved by HUD just yet. The “respondent”- usually the landlord who allegedly committed the housing discrimination, would never know a complaint has been filed against him…yet.
Once HUD has vetted the inquiry and determined that all the necessary legal elements exist to satisfy the definition of “discrimination,” HUD then converts the Inquiry into an official “complaint.” It is at this point the complaint is assigned a case number. HUD then sends notification of the accepted complaint to the complainant to sign and return to HUD. Once HUD receives the signed complaint, it is officially at that point HUD’s interest to investigate the allegations to determine if, in fact, discrimination occurred.
Once the complainant has agreed to sign the complaint and return it to HUD, that’s when the complainant officially has HUD’s protection from any retaliation, intimidation, coercion, or threats from the respondent under Section 818 of the Fair Housing Act. HUD, at that point, sends notification of the accepted complaint to the respondent for the very first time. The respondent has 10 days to review the allegations, provide requested documentation, and respond to a set list of questions from HUD.
The moment the respondent receives the complaint notification in the mail, it is too late to retaliate. In the notification packet the respondent receives from HUD is a formal warning about retaliation and its consequences. The respondents at this point are scrambling to hire an attorney and prepare defenses to their discriminatory actions. Most are very willing to settle the matter to avoid investigation through conciliation- a voluntary settlement agreed to by both parties.
What if the Inquiry is rejected from the beginning?
If the inquiry initially filed by the complainant never makes it past inquiry, the respondent would never know- only the complainant is notified about the rejected complaint.
So, don’t be concerned about retaliation from the respondent. Fair Housing Advocates, Inc. has written and filed fair housing complaints on behalf of consumers against landlords, property owners, property managers, apartments, condo associations, mobile home parks, HOAs, and even against Cities and Counties which have laws discriminating against the disabled.
If you believe you are being subjected to housing discrimination, please reach Fair Housing Advocates, Inc., to learn more about all of our free nonprofit fair housing services at firstname.lastname@example.org.