Role of the U.S. Department of Justice
The Department of Justice (DOJ) may file a lawsuit whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or denial of rights to a group of persons where such denial raises an issue of general public importance. DOJ may also file a lawsuit based upon HUD referrals involving the legality of any state or local zoning, or other land use law or ordinance if the parties agree to a civil action. DOJ may also enter into settlement/consent agreements with property owners to obtain compliance with the Fair Housing Act. DOJ may also seek a court judgment to enforce the terms of a settlement/consent agreement.
Role of Substantially Equivalent State or Local Fair Housing Agency
Where HUD has determined that state or local laws are substantially equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act, a state or local fair housing agency investigates fair housing allegations, attempts conciliation, and determines whether reasonable cause exists to believe a discriminatory housing practice has occurred. If the fair housing agency makes a determination of reasonable cause, then a charge is filed with representation of the complainant provided by a state or local representative.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Among Treasury , HUD and DOJ
Treasury, HUD, and DOJ entered into an MOU in a cooperative effort to promote enhanced compliance with the Fair Housing Act for the benefit of residents of LIHC properties and the general public. Key points of the MOU include coordinated procedures for notifying the state agencies and IRS of charges, lawsuits, or other actions under the Fair Housing Act involving an LIHC property. The MOU also calls for interagency assistance and training, training for the state agencies and industry stakeholders, and training for architects on the accessibility requirements. See Exhibit 13-2 for the full text of the MOU.
Reporting of Fair Housing Act Administrative and Legal Actions HUD or DOJ will notify a state agency of:
a charge by the Secretary of HUD for a violation of the Fair Housing Act,
a probable cause finding under a substantially equivalent fair housing state law or local ordinance by a substantially equivalent state or local agency,
a lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act filed by the DOJ, or
a settlement agreement or consent decree entered into between HUD or DOJ and the owner of an LIHC property.
Other non-FHA civil rights actions and lawsuits, such as section 504 Rehabilitation Act lawsuits or administrative actions, are not covered under the terms of the MOU and should not be reported to the IRS.
On receipt of such a notification, a state agency should immediately file a Form 8823 with the IRS noting the potential violation using the “out of compliance” box and notify the owner in writing. A sample letter that a state agency should send to the owner is included as Exhibit 13-3.
Revised October 2009