What to know if you believe you’ve experienced housing discrimination?
There are several activities covered by the Fair Housing Act and the Georgia Fair Housing Law. Landlords, realtors, home owner associations, insurers, and others are not allowed to discriminate against an individual or family when they engage in housing activities such as buying or renting a home, purchasing homeowners insurance, or taking out a home mortgage based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status.
Even with these laws in place, discrimination may still occur. In the state of Georgia, complaints can be made with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity. The Commission is tasked with enforcing the Georgia Fair Housing Law and provides residents with the ability to make a complaint if they believe they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination. Its objective is “to eliminate housing discrimination within the state of Georgia.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity enforces and responds to complaints about violations of the federal Fair Housing Act. This office investigates violations of the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights violations in housing and community development programs.
How to file a housing discrimination complaint?
With the State of Georgia
In Georgia, residents can file a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity’s Fair Housing Division. This office will investigate complaints and attempts to resolve disputes through a conciliation process. The Commission carries out objective and timely investigations into allegations. If the Commission determines unlawful discrimination has occurred, various forms of relief may be available if there is reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination has occurred. If the Commission determines the law may have been violated, it may refer cases to the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Georgia.
There are four criteria that must be met to move forward with an investigation:
- Standing of the complainant
- Subject Matter Jurisdiction
- Respondent Jurisdiction
- Timeliness of the Complaint (must be made within one year of the alleged discrimination)
The Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity’s Fair Housing Complaint Form is available to file a complaint. Its Intake Coordinator can be reached at (404) 463-4706 to answer further questions.
With the Federal Government
Similar to the state’s process, the federal Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity will investigate complaints and will attempt to resolve disputes through a conciliation process, often resulting in a Voluntary Conciliation Agreement. However, there may be cases that are brought through the legal process. If a case goes before HUD Administrative Law Judges, they are handled by HUD's Office of General Counsel. Cases in the federal courts are handled by the U.S. Department of Justice. Relief sought by individuals include compensation for victims, changes to policies and procedures, and training. It is important to note that federal law also prohibits retaliation against people who file fair housing complaints.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Complaint Form is available in several languages. Individuals with fair housing questions can also call 1-800-669-9777 or TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
How to Prevent Fair Housing Violations?
The Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity provides trainings for those professions involved in housing transactions so they can comply with state and federal fair housing laws. If you are a landlord, a realtor, insurance professional, or otherwise involved in housing transactions, you may request training from the Commission via its website. These training sessions and workshops aim to educate housing professionals on the essentials of providing equal access to housing for Georgians.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers fair housing training through its National Fair Housing Training Academy. The Academy trains practitioners by building their capacity and developing their skills to ensure opportunity for all. It provides virtual sessions through National Fair Housing Forums and through instructor-led courses that help build specific skills. Classes and trainings are held in person or virtually across the country and throughout the year. Please visit the National Fair Housing Training Academy’s website for full details on its course offerings.