[lg policy] Virginia: HOME settles housing discrimination complaint with Chesterfield firm for $33,000

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Aug 4 11:23:17 EDT 2016


 HOME settles housing discrimination complaint with Chesterfield firm for
$33,000

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Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2016 4:15 pm

By CAROL HAZARD Richmond Times-Dispatch

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia Inc. said Wednesday it had
settled a discrimination complaint for $33,000 with two Richmond-area
companies for alleged housing discrimination against a person who did not
speak English.

Richmond-based HOME filed the complaint against Executives Inc. Realty
Group, a real estate brokerage in Chesterfield County, and CBP Properties
LLC, a local property owner.

The complaint alleged that a policy maintained by Executives Inc. requiring
that at least one lease signer be able to sufficiently communicate in
English constituted discrimination based on national origin.

HOME alleged that the policy unfairly excluded otherwise qualified families
from obtaining the housing of their choice because of their national origin.

In December 2013, a Spanish-speaking woman accompanied by her bilingual
daughter attempted to view a rental home in Richmond listed by Executives
Inc. The woman was allegedly denied access to see the home when a
receptionist learned that no adult on the lease would be able to speak
sufficient English.

In 2014, HOME investigated the claim, confirmed the policy and then filed a
formal complaint with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD
referred the case for investigation to the Virginia Fair Housing Office.

Brown Pearson, owner of Executives Inc., said in a statement that the
company prides itself on providing high-quality housing and excellent
customer service. “We want to assure the community that we are welcoming to
all applicants regardless of their national origin, and our policies and
training reflect that commitment,” he said.

Pearson declined to comment further.

To settle HOME’s claims, Executives Inc. changed its language policy, which
now instructs staff to provide housing opportunities to prospective tenants
regardless of their English proficiency.

Executives’ Inc. staff will continue to attend regular fair-housing
training. It also will reimburse HOME for costs and expenses incurred
during the investigation.

The original complainant settled her own fair-housing complaint with
Executives Inc. to the satisfaction of both parties, according to a
statement from HOME.

“Language is a barrier for many in our commonwealth, but that should not
deny a person’s access to housing,” said Heather Crislip, president and CEO
of HOME. “We are grateful to Executives for recognizing this unnecessary
barrier and acting swiftly to update their policy to reflect inclusion and
opportunity.”

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance’s Where You Live Matters
2015 Fair Housing Trends Report, 10.6 percent of complaints nationwide
involved the protected class of national origin, with 2,925 reported
instances in 2014.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on seven
protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability,
and familial status (families with children under age 18).

In addition, Virginia fair-housing laws offer an additional protection for
individuals age 55 and older.

Founded in 1971, HOME’s mission is to ensure equal access to housing for
all people.
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