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Ever heard of the Fair Housing testing program, where someone visits rental communities to observe customer service?HUD and local fair housing agencies use such a testing process to assess a specific complaint or to check a random market for fair housing compliance.Any applicant could be a fair housing tester.
Fair housing testing is a tool used to measure the practices of housing providers relating to the Fair Housing Act.Some unlawful housing discrimination practices can only be discovered through fair housing testing.Information gathered through fair housing testing can be used as evidence to support a client’s administrative housing discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development or a private lawsuit against a housing provider. The United States Supreme Court has recognized and affirmed the important of fair housing testing in fighting housing discrimination.
In order to enforce fair housing laws, the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United StatesDepartment of Justice (“DOJ”), brings suit to enforce the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.The Fair Housing Act authorizes the DOJ to bring suits where investigations yield evidence of a pattern or practice of illegal housing discrimination.
In 1991, the DOJ established a fair housing testing program and commenced testing in 1992.Testing refers to the use of individuals who, without any bona fide intent to rent or purchase a home, apartment, or other dwelling, pose as prospective buyers or renters of real estate for the purpose of gathering information, which may indicate whether a housing provider is complying with fair housing laws.The primary focus of the fair housing testing program has been to identify unlawful housing discrimination based on race, national origin, disability, or familial status.
The DOJ employs various means to accomplish testing in local communities, including contracts with private fair housing organizations, contracts with individuals, and by using non-attorney DOJ employees throughout the country.The DOJ employees are volunteers who have been trained to participate as testers.Since 1992, the testing program has recruited and trained over 1,000 employees from various DOJ components throughout the nation to participate as testers.These are in addition to the numerous individuals retained by private fair housing organizations.The Housing and Civil Enforcement Section conducts numerous investigations simultaneously at any given time.
Testing is a method to determine whether or not a home seeker is treated differently in his or her search for housing.A person’s race or national origin, for example, would be impermissible factors upon which to base a denial of an opportunity to purchase a home.Testing for housing discrimination involves individual testers posing as prospective home buyers or renters.Testers are paired and assigned profiles so that they are equally qualified to rent or purchase an apartment or home in question.They are similar in all respects except for one of the protected classes, such as race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, age, or marital status.The experiences of testers are used to compare the treatment of one home seeker (protected class) to another (non-protected class).In this context, testing measures the difference in treatment afforded a home seeker as determined by the information and services provided by real estate firms, property management firms, rental agents/brokers and others.
If differences are found that relate to race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, age, or marital status, a housing discrimination is filed.The vast majority of testing cases filed to date are based on testing evidence that involved allegations of agents misrepresenting the availability of rental units or offering different terms and conditions based on race, and/or national origin, and/or familial status.
In February 2006, the DOJ launched Operation Home Sweet Home, which is a fair housing testing program that employs individuals who pose as renters for purposes of gathering information about possible discriminatory apartment rental practices.The initiative was inspired by the plight of displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who were suddenly forced to find new places to live.Operation Home Sweet Home, however, is not limited to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, but targets housing discrimination all over the country.
So remember that any applicant could be a fair housing tester. And, contrary to what most real estate professionals think, it is not easy to spot a tester. You likely will never know that you were visited by testers unless, of course, a discrimination complaint is filed against you.
To learn more about fair housing issues (and many other real estate topics), please visit us at www.123ConEd.com. We are a leading online provider of Michigan real estate continuing education. All of our courses are fully approved and properly certified by the State of Michigan, and are offered online.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.