The property management sector continuously grapples with fair housing offenses, which are viewed with profound concern in the United States. In this review, we’ll focus on a significant case that sheds light on the nuanced understanding of ‘disparate impact.’
Disparate Impact – A Case Background
A property in New York was at the center of a dispute over its alleged practice of renting only to individuals proficient in English, regardless of their offer to provide personal interpreters or assist in translating documents. This practice was perceived as discriminatory on the basis of national origin.
The matter escalated when a local private fair housing organization filed a lawsuit against the property, drawing from the 2016 HUD guidelines protecting LEP individuals.
Interestingly, the housing provider’s defense claimed, among other things, that language isn’t a protected category under the Fair Housing Act and contested the applicability of the HUD guidelines in this case.
The court rejected the housing provider’s arguments, emphasizing that while language isn’t explicitly a protected category under the Fair Housing Act, it can be representative of one’s national origin. Consequently, discrimination based on language can potentially be equivalent to discrimination based on national origin.
However, the matter was eventually resolved when both parties opted for an out-of-court settlement.
Common Questions Regarding Disparate Impact
Is language a protected category under the Fair Housing Act?
While language isn’t directly protected, HUD’s perspective is that language can often be indicative of one’s national origin, hence making discrimination on its basis tantamount to national origin discrimination.
Is it still considered discrimination if the provider is unaware of the applicant’s national origin?
Typically, knowledge of a protected category is essential for a discrimination claim. However, in scenarios involving ‘disparate impact’, unintentional adverse effects of policies can be under scrutiny. In this case, decisions based on language can indirectly impact eligibility based on national origin, and it is unnecessary for a housing provider to have knowledge of someone’s national origin for a discrimination claim to be successful.
How should management employees handle language barriers without violating the law?
Effective communication is key. Management can utilize translation apps, services, or even allow applicants to bring in their interpreters.
Does the law vary based on federal funding of the property?
Properties with federal funding have explicit requirements to communicate effectively with LEP applicants. However, under the Fair Housing Act, all properties, regardless of the type of funding, have an obligation to avoid communication lapses viewed as national origin discrimination.
We hope this review sheds light on the intricate issues surrounding fair housing, particularly in the context of language and its implications. Join us for subsequent case reviews, and thank you for your engagement. Stay informed and act wisely.