Individuals with complaints of discrimination can have HUD investigate to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated. A one-year statute of limitations exists after an alleged violation for filing a complaint with HUD. HUD will notify the alleged violator of the complaint and permit that person or entity to submit an answer. HUD will try to reach an agreement through conciliation, but if HUD has reasonable cause to believe that a conciliation agreement is breached, HUD will recommend that the Attorney General file suit.
State and local agencies also exist to enforce fair housing laws. HUD may refer complaints to those agencies for investigation. HUD may also authorize the attorney general to go to court to seek temporary or preliminary relief, pending the outcome of a complaint, if irreparable harm is likely to occur without HUD’s intervention. If HUD finds reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, the matter will go to an administrative hearing at which HUD attorneys litigate the case on behalf of the complainant. Alternately, complainants can hire an attorney. An Administrative Law Judge (ALA) will consider the evidence and if ALA decides that discrimination occurred, the respondent can be ordered to pay dam-ages, including actual damages, and damages for humiliation, pain and suffering. The respondent may also be order to make the housing available, pay attorney’s fees, and pay fines to the Federal Government.
The matter can also proceed to Federal District Court with private counsel where the court may order relief, which could include punitive damages. The statute of limitations in federal court is two years from the date of an alleged violation. The Attorney General may file a suit in a Federal District Court if there is reasonable cause to believe a pattern or practice of housing discrimination is occurring.