Defense of housing & access discrimination claims
The Fair Housing Act ("FHA") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") cover a broad spectrum of housing and other "places of public accommodation." The FHA and ADA, taken together, prohibit discriminatory conduct that limits the availability of housing opportunity or access to homes or places of business. Property and business owners, landlords, property managers, lenders, brokers, builders, architects, and real estate agents are all subject to various provisions of these acts. The agency regulations applicable to FHA and ADA can create considerable liability exposure, even for seemingly innocent behavior. In other words, risk of discrimination claims exist even when one has no discriminatory intent.
In addition to government agency oversight and enforcement (initiated, for example, by HUD), these acts permit "testing" by individuals and organizations to ascertain whether there is compliance with the letter and spirit of the law. "Testers" are permitted to pose as prospective purchasers, tenants, customers, etc. who claim physical disabilities or membership in a protected class based upon as race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, etc. If, in the view of the tester, the housing provider, business owner, or its representatives exhibit discriminatory actions, words, or conduct, the tester is permitted to not only seek agency enforcement but also to file civil suit. In recent years, there has been considerable "tester" activity and related litigation throughout Idaho, including hundreds of complaints lodged with HUD and dozens of civil suits filed by fair housing advocates and advocacy organizations.
The attorneys at Ramsden, Marfice, Ealy & Harris have experience in the defense of housing and public accommodation discrimination claims, whether initiated by regulatory agencies or private litigants. We are able to navigate the complicated and often conflicting state and federal regulations, policy statements, and statutes to assess the merits of a discrimination claim and formulate appropriate defense or resolution strategies.