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HUD Settles Case Alleging ‘National Origin’ Discrimination

HUD’s complaint focused on a Phoenix-area renter who said their landlord didn’t provide needed language services. The owner will pay $34K and update procedures.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it reached a Conciliation Agreement/Voluntary Compliance Agreement with MGM Investment Company, the owner of Roosevelt Plaza Apartments in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as its property manager, resolving allegations that they violated the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to HUD, the group “failed to provide adequate language services for a resident with limited English proficiency (LEP).” Roosevelt Plaza Apartments receives funding from HUD.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols), financial assistance recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by limited English proficient (LEP) persons.

When it considers “meaningful access,” HUD often considers whether a provider offered any reasonable alternatives before it pursues a case.

“Having access to important information related to federally-financed housing, such as details about application procedures and the terms of lease agreements, shouldn’t depend on being fluent in English,” says Demetria McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Title VI requires housing providers to make this information available to all applicants and tenants, regardless of what language they speak, and HUD is committed to ensuring that they meet that obligation.”

The case came to HUD’s attention when a woman from Chad with limited English proficiency filed a complaint alleging that the owner and manager of Roosevelt Plaza Apartments, where she and her daughter live, failed to provide her with the language services she needed to make informed decisions about her housing. The woman also alleged that respondents insisted that she sign English-language housing documents when she cannot adequately speak or read English.

Under the Agreement, MGM Investment Company will pay the woman $1,000 and each household with limited English proficiency $500, up to a total compensation of $34,000. It will provide interpretation services, and ensure that signage – in English, Somali, Arabic, Kinyarwanda, Tigrinya and Spanish – states that interpretation services are available to current and prospective residents, free of charge, and post it at the property’s entrances. It will also develop and implement a language access plan to provide translated documents and have its employees attend fair housing training.

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