Your fair housing rights are protected under Title VIII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act). If those rights have
been violated, you can file a complaint with HUD. Here is how the
1 - Intake
1. Anyone can file a complaint with HUD
at no cost. Fair housing complaints can be filed by any entity,
including individuals and community groups. Those that file fair
housing complaints are known as complainants. Those against whom
fair housing complaints are filed are called respondents.
2. Fair housing complaints can be filed with HUD by telephone
(1-800-669-9777), mail, or via the Internet. Follow this link
to fill out a fair housing complaint form online.
3. After HUD has received the initial information, an intake
specialist will contact the complainant and interview him or her
to collect facts about the alleged discrimination. Initial interviews
are normally conducted by telephone. The intake specialist will
then review the allegations to determine whether the matter is
4. If HUD has the authority to investigate, it will file the
complaint. If the allegations do not fall within HUD's jurisdiction,
for example if the complaint does not allege housing discrimination,
HUD cannot accept the complaint and must close the case.
5. If the alleged discrimination occurred within a state or
locality in HUD's Fair Housing Assistance Program*, HUD will refer
the complaint to that agency. That agency must begin to work with
the complainant within 30 days, or HUD can take the complaint
the agencies in the Fair Housing Assistance Program have laws
that are substantially equivalent to the federal Fair Housing
2 - Filing
1. If HUD accepts the complaint for investigation, the
investigator will draft a formal complaint on HUD's standard form
and provide it to the complainant, typically by mail. The complainant
must sign the form and return it to HUD.
2. Within 10 days after receipt of a signed complaint, HUD will
send the respondent notice that a fair housing complaint has been
filed against him or her along with a copy of the complaint. At
the same time, HUD will send the complainant an acknowledgement
letter and a copy of the complaint.
3. Within 10 days of receiving the notice, the Respondent must
HUD an answer to the complaint.
3 - Investigation
1. As part of the investigation, HUD will interview the complainant,
the respondent, and pertinent witnesses. The investigator will
collect relevant documents or conduct onsite visits, as appropriate.
2. HUD has the authority to take depositions, issue subpoenas
and interrogatories, and compel testimony or documents.
Step 4 - Conciliation
1. The Fair Housing Act requires HUD to bring the parties together
to attempt conciliation in every fair housing complaint. The choice
to conciliate the complaint is completely voluntary on the part
of both parties. Any conciliation agreement signed by HUD must
protect the public's interests.
2. If the parties sign a conciliation agreement, HUD will end
its investigation and close the case. However, if either party
breaches the agreement, HUD can recommend that the U.S. Department
of Justice (DOJ) file suit to enforce the agreement.
5 - No Cause Determination
1. If, after a thorough investigation, HUD finds no reasonable
cause to believe that housing discrimination has occurred or is
about to occur, HUD will issue a determination of "no reasonable
cause" and close the case.
2. A complainant who disagrees with that decision can request
reconsideration of the case by sending a letter to the Director
of the Office of Enforcement, FHEO, 451 7th Street, SW, Room 5214,
Washington, DC 20410.
3. Upon receipt of a request for reconsideration, HUD will notify
all of the parties that the request has been received and invite
them to submit any additional evidence pertinent to the investigation.
4. HUD will review all of the materials from the investigation
and any additional evidence that the parties provide.
5. HUD will then inform the parties if the Department has affirmed
its finding of "no reasonable cause" or instead has decided to
re-open the complaint. If HUD decides to re-open the complaint,
it will resume investigation and conciliation. If HUD affirms
its finding of "no reasonable cause", HUD can take no further
action on the complaint.
6. If the complainant disagrees with HUD's determination that
there was no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred
or was about to occur, the complainant can file a civil court
action in the appropriate U.S. district court.
6 - Cause Determination and Charge
1. If the investigation produces reasonable cause to believe
that discrimination has occurred or is about to occur, HUD will
issue a determination of "reasonable cause" and charge the respondent
with violating the law. HUD will send a copy of the charge to
the parties in the case.
2. After HUD issues a charge, a HUD Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) will hear the case unless either party elects to have the
case heard in federal civil court. Parties must elect within 20
days of receipt of the charge.
Step 7 - Hearing in a U.S. District Court
1. Within 30 days after either party elects to go to
federal court, DOJ will commence a civil action on behalf of the
aggrieved person in U.S. district court.
2. If the court finds that a discriminatory housing practice
has or is about to occur, the court can award actual and punitive
damages as well as attorneys fees.
Step 8 - Hearing before a HUD ALJ
1. If neither party elects, a HUD ALJ will hear the
case. An attorney from HUD will represent the aggrieved party
before the ALJ.
2. When the ALJ decides the case, the ALJ will issue an initial
3. If the ALJ finds that housing discrimination has occurred
or is about to occur, the ALJ can award a maximum civil penalty
of $11,000, per violation, for a first offense, in addition to
actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable
relief, and attorneys' fees.
4. Within 15 days of the issuance of the ALJ's initial decision,
any party adversely affected by the ALJ's initial decision can
petition the Secretary of HUD for review.
5. The Secretary of HUD has 30 days after the initial decision
to affirm, modify, or set aside the ALJ's initial decision, or
remand the initial decision for further proceedings. If the Secretary
does not take any action within 30 days, the decision will be
considered the Department's final decision. 6. After the Department
has issued a final decision, any party aggrieved by the Department's
final decision can appeal to the appropriate court of appeals.