Archive for the ‘Housing and Urban Development’ Category

While Federal discrimination laws do not currently protect LGBT employees (although they are protected by many local county ordinances in Florida), The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has taken efforts to ensure that Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons are protected by the Federal Housing Laws.

“The Obama Administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this historic rule, the Administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want live on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity – ensuring that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect 30 after the rule is published.

The final rule, published as Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, makes the following provisions:

Requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, to make housing available without regard to the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant for, or occupant of, the dwelling, whether renter- or owner-occupied. HUD will institute this policy in its rental assistance and homeownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.

Prohibits lenders from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing. FHA’s current regulations provide that a mortgage lender’s determination of the adequacy of a borrower’s income “shall be made in a uniform manner without regard to” specified prohibited grounds. The rule will add actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to the prohibited grounds to ensure FHA-approved lenders do not deny or otherwise alter the terms of mortgages on the basis of irrelevant criteria.

Clarifies that all otherwise eligible families, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, will have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs. In the majority of HUD’s rental and homeownership programs the term “family” already has a broad scope, and includes a single person and families with or without children. HUD’s rule clarifies that otherwise eligible families may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship.

Prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing insured by HUD from asking about an applicant or occupant’s sexual orientation and gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or otherwise making housing available. In response to comments on the proposed rule, HUD has clarified this final rule to state that this provision does not prohibit voluntary and anonymous reporting of sexual orientation or gender identity pursuant to state, local, or federal data collection requirements.

View the final rule here.

If you believe you have been the subject of LGBT discrimination in the workplace or in housing, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation

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In the past on this blog, I have not only addressed sexual harassment in the workplace, but have also discussed housing discrimination. Well this post, addresses a little of both issues.

A federal jury in Detroit last week returned a $115,000 verdict against an Ypsilanti, Mich., man for sexually harassing female tenants in his capacity as a property manager, the Justice Department announced last week. The jury also found the property owner and his company liable for the illegal harassment.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleged that Glenn Johnson subjected female tenants to discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive and unwelcome sexual harassment, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The complaint also alleged that Ronnie Peterson and First Pitch Properties LLC, the owners of the properties, are liable for Johnson’s discriminatory conduct.

Over the course of a six day trial, the United States presented evidence that Glenn Johnson subjected six women to severe and pervasive sexual harassment, ranging from unwelcome sexual comments and sexual advances, to requiring sexual favors in exchange for their tenancy. One woman testified that Johnson refused to give her keys to her apartment until she agreed to have sex with him. Another woman testified that she had sex with Johnson at least 20 times because he threatened that the owner would evict her if she did not.

The United States also presented evidence that Washtenaw County Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, who owned the properties, knew that Johnson was sexually harassing tenants but did nothing to stop it. One woman testified that she complained in person to Peterson about Johnson’s conduct yet Johnson continued to handle properties for Peterson for nearly two more years.

“Today’s verdict sends a message to landlords and rental agents that they cannot abuse their positions and sexually harass tenants,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade. “Women should be safe from sexual harassment in their own homes.”

If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment or housing discrimination, speak to an attorney who is experienced with these areas of law.

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While this is a little off topic for this blog, I thought I would talk a little today about housing discrimination and what you can do if you are a victim of it.

Housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability is illegal by federal law. If you have been trying to buy or rent a home or apartment and you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a fair housing complaint.

If you are trying to rent housing, you cannot be discriminated against in the following ways:
Refuse to rent or sell housing
Refuse to negotiate for housing
Make housing unavailable
Deny a dwelling
Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
Provide different housing services or facilities
Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

If you are trying to buy a housing, you cannot be discriminated against in the following ways:
Refuse to make a mortgage loan
Refuse to provide information regarding loans
Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees
Discriminate in appraising property
Refuse to purchase a loan or
Set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan

Individuals who believe that they have been victims of an illegal housing practice may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. You must file the complaint with HUD within one year of the incident you believe to be housing discrimination. If you choose to file your own lawsuit in federal or state court, the Act requires that you do so within two years of the incident.

There are also many state’s that have their own housing discrimination laws so you may want to check with a discrimination lawyer to determine whether it is most beneficial to make a claim under a state or federal law.

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