How to File a Housing Discrimination Complaint in Virginia

Housing discrimination complaints in Virginia are handled by the Fair Housing Board (FHB), which administers the federal Fair Housing Law. The FHB maintains several boards that investigate different types of housing discrimination complaints and allow for housing applicants to receive fair consideration when purchasing a home. In addition, the FHB of Virginia reviews a variety of these housing complaints and allows applicants to not only receive protection from undue hardship by home-sellers, mortgage lenders, landlords, banks and other housing providers, but also provides a free complaint process. In addition to these housing discrimination complaint services for first-time homebuyers, the VA FHB also administers a certification program that educates providers on Fair Housing law. Learn how to file a housing discrimination complaint in Virginia by reading the following sections.

Types of Housing Discrimination in Virginia

Through the federal housing discrimination complaint process, the Fair Housing Law discourages housing providers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, elderliness, familial status or disability. Housing discrimination can be met with legal action through the complaint process should the FHB confirm a case of illegal activity. While there are different types of housing discrimination in VA, this will generally consist of actions like refusing to sell or rent a home, denying participation in a home listing service or refusing to permit the addition of certain facilities for disabled tenants, who have specific disability rights in housing.

In terms of the Virginia housing discrimination complaint process, the above protected categories have specific definitions. For instance, the type of VA housing discrimination based on “elderliness” refers to age-based housing discrimination against those who are 55 years of age or older. These individuals may not be precluded from housing opportunities for their age. In addition, providers cannot refuse to rent to families with children unless the establishment is a senior housing or retirement facility.

Despite these protected classes that may be able to file a housing discrimination complaint against providers, there are a number of unprotected categories that do not have the legal right to do so. The FHB may allow providers to show preference based on student status, smoking habits or income level. Under local ordinances, however, some of these classifications may be protected. To learn more about the types of housing discrimination in VA, you can download our comprehensive guide today.

How to File a Housing Discrimination Complaint in Virginia

An applicant may be able to file a housing discrimination complaint in VA if he or she believes his or her rights have been violated. Complainants should note that it is free to file housing discrimination complaints with the FHB and that there are six main steps in the discrimination complaint process that a filer should be aware of. These steps will differ within the process depending on the determination of the FHB during the preliminary investigation.

  1. Making a housing complaint

    Applicants can make VA housing discrimination complaints either over the phone, via mail or via internet. The FHB will conduct a preliminary investigation before formally filing a case.

  2. Filing a housing discrimination complaint

    This step within the Virginia complaint process for housing discrimination is distinct from the previous “Make a housing complaint” step in that a complaint will only be filed and processed when approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Once the HUD office accepts the complaint, transcribes it into the HUD filing form and submits it to the filer via mail for approval, the process officially begins.

  1. Investigation of the housing discrimination complaint

    After both the complainant and the housing provider have acknowledged the VA housing discrimination complaint that has been formally filed by the Virginia HUD, the investigation will begin. This will involve interviewing both parties, calling forth witnesses and possibly issuing court subpoenas.

  2. Conciliation among parties (Optional)

    An optional solution within the housing discrimination complaint process in VA is conciliation among parties before receiving a determination from the Virginia HUD. All housing discrimination complaints can be handled within the audience of the two parties rather than the audience of a court judge, which may involve a deal or agreement rather than litigation.

  3. Determination (Cause or No Cause)

    Should the two parties not opt for conciliation, then HUD will make a determination on the Virginia housing discrimination complaint that is either with cause in favor of the complainant or no cause for the complainant. Should there be cause, then the case will move forward to the next step, which will be a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) or a federal civil court. Should the Virginia HUD find no cause, the case will be dropped, although the complainant can appeal the decision to a Virginia district court.

  4. ALJ Hearing or District Court Hearing

    Should the Virginia HUD find cause in favor of the housing discrimination complaint, the housing provider in question will be required to pay for damages, attorney’s fees and other costs. This decision will be passed by either an ALJ or a federal civil court and may be appealed by either party.

For more specific information about how to file a housing discrimination complaint in VA, you can download our complimentary guide today.

Virginia Department of Housing & Urban Development