Legal Analysts

Showing posts with label HUD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HUD. Show all posts

Monday, April 03, 2023

Disparate Impact Discrimination Rule Adopted by HUD for Housing Discrimination

Unintentional discrimination is still discrimination and can result in serious penalties in a lawsuit so long as the effects of actions cause a discriminatory result. 

In the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities, HUD has clarified, by 24 CFR 100, its Rule to evaluate a case, which is effective on May 1, 2023. 

The Rule sets forth how our government analyzes a Title VIII Fair Housing Act case and looks back to reinstate HUD's 2013 rule, titled "Implementation of the Fair Housing Act's Discriminatory Effects Standard." Under the rule, discrimination occurs through "facially neutral practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect." To understand whether there is an unjustified discriminatory effect, the Rule requires "a burden-shifting test," as follows:
  1. The plaintiff or charging party is first required to prove as part of the prima facie showing that a challenged practice caused or predictably will cause a discriminatory effect;
  2. if the plaintiff or charging party makes this prima facie showing, the defendant or respondent must then prove that the challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests of the defendant or respondent; and 
  3. if the defendant or respondent meets its burden at step two, the plaintiff or charging party may still prevail by proving that the substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests supporting the challenged practice could be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect.

As a result, defendants now have much greater exposure to liability than they had under the 2020 Rule, which has been revoked by this new Final Rule even though it was never enforced or went into effect during the Trump era. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

New Rules Coming on Housing Discrimination - Disparate Impact Discrimination is Changing Again

In housing discrimination, you can't treat people differently in the terms, conditions, privileges, and/or availability of housing. 

Yet, you aren't just responsible for your intended acts of discrimination, known as disparate treatment discrimination. Instead, you are also responsible for your unintended acts that impact groups of people as a secondary effect, which is known as disparate impact discrimination.

Think about it this way, if you don't rent to women, as a policy, that is clearly an act of disparate treatment sex discrimination. However, if you don't rent to long-haired people, aren't you still impacting women in sex discrimination under a different name? That is called disparate impact discrimination.

As to disparate impact discrimination, President Biden just ordered HUD to make sure that the regulations on disparate impact discrimination is preventing practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect. 

Do you think that there should be disparate impact discrimination laws? If so, what do you think they should be? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Fair Housing Guidance Procedure Unveiled in New Interim Final Rule

Get your anti-discrimination guidance starting on December 10, 2020 on HUD's new searchable website, which will also give guidance on lending, foreclosures, and much more. 

Currently, guidance is available here.  

Starting on December 10, 2020, HUD will make available "a single, searchable, indexed website," and make guidance subject to a 30 day public comment period with a procedure for the public to petition to modify or withdraw guidance per its Interim Final Rule available at 85 FR 71537.

HUD guidance documents "are statements of general applicability and future effect that set forth policy on statutory, regulatory, or technical issues or interpret statute or regulation." In plain English, guidance advises industry as to HUD's interpretation of laws as applicable to described activity. As such, industry is better able to function, in a regulated environment, when industry can request direction on gray areas of law prior to making investment or taking action in that area. 

As background, "[o]n October 9, 2019 (84 FR 55235), the President issued E.O. 13891, “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents," which "requires that each Federal agency take certain actions to ensure the transparent availability and use of guidance documents." This Interim Final Rule is made in satisfaction of the E.O.

Monday, November 02, 2020

New Discrimination Standard Under the Fair Housing Act is Effective

Effective October 26, 2020, HUD implemented a new disparate impact fair housing standard.


Disparate impact discrimination occurs when housing practices have an unjustified discriminatory effect even though they were not motivated by a discriminatory intent. 

The new standard exists at 24 CFR 100.500 and it makes a claim of disparate impact discrimination far harder to bring and even harder to prove as compared to the prior HUD standard.

Previously, the regulation did not contain an express pleading standard and instead, only required the plaintiff to prove "that a challenged practice caused or predictably will cause a discriminatory effect." 

Now a plaintiff must "sufficiently plead facts to support each of the following elements: (1) That the challenged policy or practice is arbitrary, artificial, and unnecessary to achieve a valid interest or legitimate objective such as a practical business, profit, policy consideration, or requirement of law; (2) That the challenged policy or practice has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of a protected class; (3) That there is a robust causal link between the challenged policy or practice and the adverse effect on members of a protected class, meaning that the specific policy or practice is the direct cause of the discriminatory effect; (4) That the alleged disparity caused by the policy or practice is significant; and (5) That there is a direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged."

With respect to the 3rd element, that is a very heavy burden for a plaintiff to satisfy at the pleading stage of litigation because the requisite evidence is often unavailable until the parties have engaged in the discovery process. 

Moreover, while the prior regulation provided that a defendant would then have to rebut the claim by "proving that the challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests[,]" a defendant now can just rebut the first element "by producing evidence showing that the challenged policy or practice advances a valid interest (or interests) and is therefore not arbitrary, artificial, and unnecessary." Changing the term from a "substantial" interest to "a valid interest" results in the defendant's burden seemingly being far lower.


Moreover, under the new standard, once the defendant rebuts the first element, "the plaintiff must prove by the preponderance of the evidence either that the interest (or interests) advanced by the defendant are not valid or that a less discriminatory policy or practice exists that would serve the defendant’s identified interest (or interests) in an equally effective manner without imposing materially greater costs on, or creating other material burdens for, the defendant." Previously, this was the defendant's burden. 

Regardless, there are now also 3 express defenses available, including that "(i) The policy or practice is intended to predict an occurrence of an outcome, the prediction represents a valid interest, and the outcome predicted by the policy or practice does not or would not have a disparate impact on protected classes compared to similarly situated individuals not part of the protected class, with respect to the allegations under paragraph (b). This is not an adequate defense, however, if the plaintiff demonstrates that an alternative, less discriminatory policy or practice would result in the same outcome of the policy or practice, without imposing materially greater costs on, or creating other material burdens for the defendant. (ii) The plaintiff has failed to establish that a policy or practice has a discriminatory effect under paragraph (c) of this section. (iii) The defendant’s policy or practice is reasonably necessary to comply with a third party requirement, such as a: (A) Federal, state, or local law; (B) Binding or controlling court, arbitral, administrative order or opinion; or (C) Binding or controlling regulatory, administrative, or government guidance or requirement."

Housing participants should be particularly interested in the third available defense in the form of a controlling administrative opinion or binding regulatory guidance. It is strenuously suggested that every housing industry participant seeks such opinion or guidance as a necessary incident of any business plan covering a new product or service. To fail to do so is just reckless in a world where such a defense exists. 

That being said, it is noted that this regulation only pertains to a federal housing discrimination claim and states and locales may offer increased protections to their citizens. So, these other laws must also be analyzed for housing participants to the extent that they afford disparate impact claims (e.g., NYC Admin. Code). 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

60-Day Moratorium on Foreclosures and Evictions for FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac Mortgages

On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for single family homeowners with FHA-backed mortgages. Similarly, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) also directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for single family mortgages for at least 60 days. These moratoriums were intended to curb the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on homeowners and in connection with the proclamation of the COVID-19 outbreak as a national emergency.

The 60-day moratorium for FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac mortgages took effect on March 18, 2020. For FHA mortgages, the moratorium applies to all FHA Title II Single Family forward and Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (reverse) mortgage programs and covers the initiation of foreclosures up to completion of foreclosures in process. Evictions from properties secured by FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac single family mortgages are also on hold for 60 days.

In addition to HUD and FHFA moratoriums, all evictions and foreclosures are indefinitely suspended in the counties of Nassau County and Suffolk County.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Doing Business with HUD - Handbook Released

HUD issued the revised FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook on March 27, 2019. Updates are set forth on pages 2-17.

This Handbook details the requirements to do business with the Federal Housing Administration from origination to servicing and loss mitigation together with claims and enforcement.

While the document is primarily for mortgage lenders, real estate brokers who do business with HUD should review pages 102 and 964, as the Handbook details certification, recertification and enforcement.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

New HUD Secretary Confirmed by Senate

Dr. Ben Carson, former Republican Presidential Candidate and Neurosurgeon, has been confirmed as the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary (HUD).

HUD, formed by an act of Congress in 1965, is tasked with implementing federal policies directed at the housing market.

As Secretary, Dr. Carson will have vast power in regards to the organization and structure of the agency, specifically the field structure at the local level. Nonetheless, Dr. Carson’s discretion is bound by the confines of federal mandates.

As real estate industry professionals, we wish Dr. Ben Carson much success in his new role. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

New HUD Guidance - The Intersection of Disparate Impact Discrimination and Criminal Background Checks

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that disparate impact discrimination claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. For a refresher, read my blog post about the decision here. In sum, landlords may be liable for discrimination if the effect of a facially neutral housing action has a disproportionate impact on a protected class.

Today, the office of general counsel to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a memorandum offering guidance regarding the potential discriminatory effects of taking an adverse housing action against a tenant based upon their criminal history. A link to the memorandum can be found here. The logline for this memorandum is that HUD believes taking an adverse housing action based upon criminal history may constitute discrimination on the basis of race or national origin because of its disparate impact on those protected classes.

The memorandum examines the three-step burden-shifting test a court would analyze in a claim brought by a tenant who alleges they were discriminated based upon their criminal history. The stated purpose of the memorandum is facially neutral, addressing “how the discriminatory effects and disparate treatment methods of proof apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing provider justifies an adverse housing action… based on an individual’s criminal history.” The practical effect of the memorandum, however, is that HUD has armed plaintiff’s attorneys with a new theory of liability that all landlord’s should understand.

The three-step burden-shifting test requires that a plaintiff first prove that the complained of practice has a discriminatory effect. If the plaintiff is successful, the defendant must then prove that the challenged practice has a legally sufficient justification. Finally, if the defendant proves a legally sufficient justification, a plaintiff must then prove that there is a less discriminatory alternative available. The HUD memorandum examines each question and attempts to offer guidance in turn.

Discriminatory Effect

HUD submits that national statistics stand for the conclusion that “[n]ationally, racial and ethnic minorities face disproportionately high rates of arrest and incarceration. Without drawing its own conclusion, HUD posits that these statistics, along with other evidence, could provide sufficient proof for the legal position that taking an adverse housing action, such as refusing to enter or renew a lease based upon criminal history, has a disparate impact on African Americans or Hispanics.

Legally Sufficient Justification

If a plaintiff is successful in proving that an adverse housing action on the basis of criminal history has a discriminatory effect on racial or ethnic minorities, a defendant would then be compelled to provide a legally sufficient justification for the action. In analyzing this factor, HUD acknowledges that “resident safety and protecting property are often considered to be among the fundamental responsibilities of a housing provider”. However, HUD does push back by requiring that a defendant submit evidence supporting the conclusion that a policy of discriminating on the basis of criminal history furthers the stated purpose of protecting residents and property. That is, a landlord cannot blindly rely upon this justification in every situation. HUD suggests that landlords consider each potential tenant on a case by case basis instead of having a blanket policy of refusing to lease to anyone with a criminal history

For example, HUD submits that the existence of a prior arrest, which does not carry a subsequent conviction, “has very little, if any, probative value in showing that he has engaged in any misconduct. An arrest shows nothing more than that someone probably suspected the person apprehended of an offense.” HUD concludes that “because arrest records do not constitute proof of past unlawful conduct… the fact of an arrest is not a reliable basis upon which to assess the potential risk to resident safety or property posed by a particular individual.”

Moving further, HUD submits that even a criminal conviction does not automatically create a legally sufficient justification. “A housing provider that imposes a blanket prohibition on any person with any conviction record – no matter when the conviction occurred, what the underlying conduct entailed, or what the convicted person has done since then – will be unable to meet this burden [of proving a legally sufficient justification].” HUD suggests that a “housing provider must show that its policy accurately distinguishes between criminal conduct that indicates a demonstrable risk to resident safety and/or property and criminal conduct that does not.”

Less Discriminatory Alternative

If a landlord proves a legally sufficient justification for the challenged policy or act, the plaintiff may still prevail by proving that a less discriminatory alternative exists. Here, HUD offers no substantiated guidance but submits that the analysis must be performed on a case by case basis. The only suggestion proffered by HUD is that a landlord may consider delaying a criminal history investigation until after a tenant has already qualified financially.


In the end, HUD has taken an aggressive position that all landlords must remain cognizant of when making housing decisions. When forming a policy of utilizing criminal background checks, a landlord should ensure that their policy is “tailored to serve the housing provider’s substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest and take[s] into consideration such factors as the type of the crime and the length of the time since conviction.” A landlord who has no evidence that its policy or action is grounded in nondiscriminatory justification will be vulnerable to complaints. 

At the very least, HUD has made it clear that blanket prohibitions on any person with a criminal history will face legal challenges based upon the Supreme Court’s upholding of the disparate impact theory of discrimination.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bans Against Smoking May Discriminate Against the Elderly and Disabled

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proposing a ban on smoking in public housing units nationwide to protect residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke. Citing to the higher risks of cancer and other diseases associated with secondhand smoking, HUD Secretary Julian Castro stated that this policy would protect millions of Americans from preventable diseases every year. Additionally, it would save public housing agencies millions of dollars in repairs from fire and smoke damage caused by lit tobacco products.

The “castle doctrine” is a long-standing legal doctrine allowing individuals certain protections in his or own home. However, if HUD’s proposed ban is enacted, public housing will no longer be a castle for those residents who want to smoke in the privacy of their own homes. By conducting public health studies and hearing public comments, HUD is within its rights to create such a ban.
Many public housing agencies across the country have already implemented anti-smoking policies due to the HUD’s vigorous campaign to adopt such policies since 2009. However, this proposed ban would require all public housing agencies to conform to a non-smoking policy in not only the residences but also the indoor common areas, administrative offices, and within 25 feet outdoors of these units.

It is unclear how the rule will be enforced and what kinds of accommodations will be offered to smokers who already reside in these public housing units. Though the act of smoking lit tobacco products does not fall under a protected class, this policy may have a disparate impact on elderly and disabled smokers who cannot easily leave their homes every time they want a cigarette. If the elderly and disabled are unable to conform to the rule, they be forced out of their residences without any other place to go.

Secondhand smoke is a public health issue, but HUD must tread lightly to offer reasonable accommodations to those who already reside in public housing and who may not be able to abide by the new rule.  Otherwise, HUD may face a flood of discrimination lawsuits.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Closing Disclosure Replaces the HUD-1 in Real Estate Transactions in 2015

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new form, "The Closing Disclosure form replaces the current form used to close a loan, the HUD-1, which was designed by HUD under RESPA. It also replaces the revised Truth in Lending disclosure designed by the Board under TILA."

Consumers must receive this form "at least three business days before the consumer closes on the loan." Strikingly, if many possible loan components are changed following the provision of The Closing Disclosure form, such as changing the product or adding a prepayment penalty, a "consumer must be provided a new form and an additional three-business-day waiting period after receipt".

Look forward to this final rule, which is effective on August 1, 2015.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

HUD 2012 Housing Discrimination Study: Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities

HUD just issued its study of incidence and forms of discrimination experienced by black, Hispanic, and Asian renters and homebuyers.

The study finds that "minority homeseekers are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than whites", as a result of more than 8,000 tests conducted in 28 metropolitan areas.

Clearly discrimination still exists in housing. However, the study takes pains to explain that differing circumstances of classes of people in housing does not equal discrimination. Instead, the discrimination is only present when it causes the resulting disability in housing.

Real estate agents should read the Executive Summary, understand discrimination and be mindful to weed out such practices as we always strive to bring professionalism to our field.