Saturday, May 06, 2017

Accused Of Denying Homeowner Insurance Price Quotes To Blacks, Hispanics Who Declined To Provide Social Security Numbers, While Failing To Apply Same Standard To Whites, Insurance Agency Denies Wrongdoing, But Agrees To Resolve Fair Housing Complaint

In South Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, The Morning Call reports:
  • A South Whitehall Township insurance company, saying it was a "misunderstanding," resolved a fair housing complaint about minority callers who requested quotes for homeowners insurance.

    Arbor Insurance Group will volunteer to help first-time homebuyers as part of the agreement with the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania,(1) a nonprofit based in Fort Washington, according to a press release.

    The agreement, which included Arbor's denial of wrongdoing, arose from a Housing Equality Center investigation that alleged that from August 2012 to October 2014, an Arbor agent didn't give homeowners insurance quotes to African-American and Hispanic callers who declined to provide their Social Security number, the press release said.

    White callers, however, did not have to provide their Social Security number to obtain a quote, the press release said.

    Such behavior violates the federal Fair Housing Act, which bans discrimination in housing matters based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status, said Rachel Wentworth, the Housing Equality Center executive director.

    Arbor President William Hacker said he was surprised to learn of the allegations because the company is dedicated to promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion. He said his company helps all aspects of the community, supports nonprofits and has a foundation that distributes thousands of dollars to the elderly and underprivileged.

    The company was also featured in a Morning Call story in 1996 for hiring one of two Latino insurance agents in the Lehigh Valley at the time.

    "We think it's a misunderstanding," Hacker said.

    Wentworth said having access to homeowners insurance directly impacts consumers' ability to purchase a home. Asking minorities for additional information is an impediment.

    "It's like an extra hurdle that they need to overcome in order to purchase a home on a level playing field as a white consumer would have," she said.

    Wentworth filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which was resolved earlier this year when Arbor and the Housing Equality Center reached their agreement.
Source: South Whitehall insurance company settles fair housing complaint.
(1) The Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania is a non-profit, fair housing organization that offers a variety of programs and services to the general public, including counseling and conducting testing investigations to help housing discrimination victims, to ensure that consumers have access to housing and understand their rights under fair housing laws. Its service area includes the Pennsylvania counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia.

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