Fair housing center investigates discrimination claimsWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumers who believe they have encountered discrimination with regard to apartment leasing, home mortgage or other related issues can turn to the Toledo Fair Housing Center (TFHC) for assistance.
The organization relies on government funding, an annual fundraiser and other private donations to investigate complaints, according to Michael P. Marsh, CFRE, vice president for development and PR. TFHC attempts to educate housing-industry professionals and consumers about their rights and responsibilities under fair housing and discrimination laws enacted in 1968.
“If you’re trying to rent an apartment or purchase a home or obtain homeowners insurance or a mortgage — anything related to the housing arena — if you feel that your rights were violated or you were discriminated against in the process, you can file a complaint with us, and we will do a free and confidential investigation,” Marsh said.
Clients provide information for TFHC testers to act as private citizens seeking to rent or buy a home or, perhaps, insure property in an area considered high risk. Testers are given only the details necessary to apply for a lease, for instance, or inquire about the availability of housing.
In some cases, possible discrimination based on race can be tested by having a black consumer talk to property management personnel by phone, then compare the response to how well they are treated when they meet in person. The organization determines if a case can be made against a person or company and takes appropriate action.
“Sometimes it can be as simple as just writing a letter to an apartment management company, maybe, for somebody who needs a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification because of their disability,” Marsh said. “Sometimes all we have to do is write a letter; other times we have to go to court.”
Attorneys often work on contingency or pro bono, yet TFHC also refers clients to ABLE and Legal Aid of Western Ohio. C. Thomas McCarter, a private attorney who started with ABLE in 1971 and now works for the organization on a part-time basis, explained the process of determining whether to accept a case, saying referrals run along a two-way street.
“There were often cases where I would have clients over the years and say, ‘Look, I think there’s something here that would warrant the fair housing center to get involved and because of their expertise in both testing and investigation, I would call them,’” McCarter said.
But not all cases are valid. Marsh said the testers, who receive small stipends for their work, may produce results that contradict the complaint TFHC received from a client. Discrimination is defined by Title 8 under the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects consumers as well as housing industry professionals who may be accused of violations.
“There are some people that come to us who we are just not able to help because they really didn’t experience discrimination or at least the tests that we do didn’t show that they experienced discrimination,” Marsh said.
For more information, call (419) 243-6163 or visit www.toledofhc.org.