July 16, 2012

A simple question or a violation of law?

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This post is also available in: Spanish

There are many questions housing providers will ask you when it comes to renting an apartment, buying a home, or applying for a mortgage.  “Are you Hispanic?” shouldn’t be one of them.  The law is clear – you can’t be treated differently based your national origin.  In short, your family tree doesn’t matter.

The unequal treatment of Hispanics is at the core of a settlement announced between HUD and an Alabama-based apartment company and its management firm. The agreement will affect 9,406 housing units located at 264 properties in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

A local fair housing tester posing as a prospective tenant was asked “Are you Hispanic?”  When she said she was, she was asked to produce a green card or “work visa.”

The Fair Housing Act states it’s illegal to impose different rental terms and conditions based on a person’s national origin.  HUD’s agreement is with Chilton Associates, Ltd., owner of Peachtree Apartments in Clanton, Alabama, and its manager Sunbelt Management Company, settling claims that they required potential Hispanic tenants show documentation of their immigration status, while not asking the same of non-Hispanic individuals.

The settlement stems from a complaint initiated by HUD after the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center (CAFHC) informed HUD that fair housing tests it had conducted suggested discrimination at the property.

Chilton Associates will develop a plan to market housing opportunities to those with limited English proficiency and provide translation services. Additionally, they will donate $5,000 to CAFHC to support fair housing enforcement and education, and donate $5,000 to a local Alabama non-profit organization that serves the Latino community.

Housing discrimination against Hispanics and anyone because of national origin is illegal.  HUD’s Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity is here to put an end to it.  You can contact FHEO at 1-800-669-9777.

John Trasviña is HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

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