The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has announced that Virginia Realty Company of Tidewater Inc., a property management company based in Virginia Beach, Va., will pay $82,500 to settle allegations that it refused to allow a Hispanic woman to apply for an apartment because she did not speak fluent English. Virginia Realty had a policy of not renting to persons with limited English proficiency. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the rental of housing on the basis of national origin.
“Denying housing because a person does not speak English well violates the Fair Housing Act,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This settlement reaffirms HUD’s commitment to combating discrimination against a person because of their national origin or the language they speak.”
The case came to HUD’s attention when a Hispanic woman filed a complaint alleging that Virginia Realty, a property management company that manages over 500 rental units throughout Virginia Beach and Norfolk, refused to provide her a rental application because she could not speak English well and refused the translation assistance of the bilingual person she brought with her. Based on her experience, HUD launched a Secretary-initiated Investigation to determine whether the alleged discrimination was systemic. In the course of the investigation, HUD discovered that Virginia Realty had a written policy expressly requiring all prospective tenants to be able to communicate with management staff in English without assistance from others, and to complete rental applications only while they were in the management office.
As a result of HUD’s investigation, Virginia Realty entered into two agreements: one with the individual who brought the initial complaint and the other with HUD. Under the first agreement, Virginia Realty will pay the prospective tenant $7,500. Under the second agreement, the company will donate $25,000 each to the Piedmont Housing Alliance, Hampton Roads Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Nueva Vida (New Life) Outreach International Church to support fair housing initiatives. In addition, Virginia Realty will adopt a non-discrimination policy, which it will distribute to current residents and prospective tenants; adopt a plan to more effectively serve Limited English Proficient residents and prospective tenants by providing translation and interpretation services; and require its employees to undergo fair housing training.