Sunday, May 15, 2016

Seattle Office Of Civil Rights Bags 23 Landlords In Recent Fair Housing Sting, Making Non-Criminal Allegations Of Housing Discrimination In Connection w/ Their Treatment Of Section 8 Tenants & Those With Disabilities

In Seattle, Washington, seattlepi.com reports:
  • Seattle's Office of Civil Rights filed "director's charges" against 23 property owners after fair housing testing showed evidence of discrimination in three categories, the office said in a [] news release.

    Testers, who called or emailed posing as potential renters, found that nearly two-thirds of landlords gave different treatment based on disability or Section 8 status, with some landlords simply turning away or not responding to Section 8 applicants, the release said.

    "We have filed 23 charges where the differences in treatment were undeniable," said Patricia Lally, Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, in the news release. "These test results are not isolated incidents – they demonstrate patterns of behavior that have profound impacts on people's lives."

    The charges don't amount to criminal violations, but could carry penalties, depending on the final findings by the city, said Elliott Bronstein, public information officer for the Office of Civil Rights.

    In 12 of 13 cases that were filed after 2014 testing, landlords agreed to settlements that included repaying the cost of tests -- $700 each -- and $1,000 to be used by the Office of Civil Rights for outreach, Bronstein said.

    Landlords and their employees also are likely to go through fair housing training and have to update internal policies to ensure they follow fair housing ordinances, he said.

    The latest round of testing looked at treatment of potential renters with regard to family and disability status and use of federal Section 8 vouchers.

    One manager advertised a rental for "professional tenants only," while others gave less information about rentals if the tester said they had children, the release said.

    For applicants with disabilities, some landlords hung up "repeatedly" when they received calls from the Washington State relay service (for people who have hearing or speaking impairments), or refused to allow service animals or waive pet fees, according to the release.

    "Housing discrimination is real in Seattle – not something that just happens in other places," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. "These test results tell us that we still have work to do to achieve fair housing in Seattle."

    The city contracted with the Northwest Fair Housing Alliance in Spokane to conduct a total of 97 tests.

    Of the 23 charges, 13 were for issues with treatment of Section 8 applicants, six for unequal treatment based on disability and two related to different treatment based on family status, the release said.

    The Office of Civil Rights has conducted the tests annually the last two years, paid for with $50,000 in city funding, according to the release. The office is responsible for enforcement of anti-discrimination ordinances in Seattle.
Source: City says 23 property owners broke fair housing laws (Fair housing test found rental owners discriminated across three categories, Office of Civil Rights says).

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