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HUD Issues New Guidance on FHA Protections for Those with Limited English Proficiency

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In September, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published new guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies to claims of housing discrimination based on a person’s inability to speak fluent English. According to HUD’s recent announcement, the FHA prohibits this type of conduct, so if you were denied housing due to a language barrier, you should consider retaining an experienced Fair Housing Act attorney in Tampa who will aggressively defend your rights.

Guidance on Limited English Proficiency  

In its recently released limited English proficiency publication, HUD acknowledged that although the FHA strictly prohibits intentional housing discrimination and practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect, people with limited English are not technically considered a protected class under the statute. However, HUD also stated that the FHA’s prohibition of discrimination on seven protected categories, one of which is national origin, is closely linked to the ability to communicate. For this reason, landlords and other housing providers are prohibited from using the argument that a person could not speak fluent English to justify intentional housing discrimination.

Discriminatory Effects  

Similarly, federal law bars landlords from using a person’s limited English proficiency in a way that has an unjustified discriminatory effect, such as a refusal to rent to an applicant or to renew a lease. Discriminatory practices cover a wide range of activity, such as:

  • Applying a language-related requirement for those of certain nationalities;
  • Posting advertisements that blatantly state a requirement that tenants speak English;
  • Banning tenants from speaking non-English languages on the property;
  • Making statements that disparage tenants for speaking in their native language;
  • Refusing to provide language assistance services when required to do so by law or by contract;
  • Denying housing to applicants who are not fluent; or
  • Targeting certain national origin groups for housing-related scams.

A landlord will also be considered to have violated the FHA’s prohibition against housing discrimination when his or her practices or policies result in discrimination, even when such discrimination was not the landlord’s intent. Determining whether a specific practice or policy has a discriminatory effect requires a three step analysis assessing:

  • The statistical evidence of discrimination;
  • Whether the policy is necessary to achieve a legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest; and
  • Whether an alternative policy exists that is less discriminatory in nature.

Establishing these elements can be difficult, especially when a claim involves discrimination based on language, so if you or loved one were evicted, denied a renewal of a lease, or denied housing due to a language barrier, it is crucial to consult with an experienced Fair Housing Act attorney who is well-versed in federal law and can ensure that your rights are protected.

Call Today to Discuss Your Case with a Fair Housing Act Lawyer  

If you believe that you were denied housing due to an inability to communicate proficiently in English, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call 813-909-8855 today to speak with one of the experienced Florida Fair Housing Act attorneys at Saady & Saxe, P.A. Attorneys At Law about your own case.

Resource:

hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2016/HUDNo_16-135

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