Fair Housing and Equal Credit Opportunity

The Fair Housing Act provides freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap and familial status in connection with the sale, rental, and financing of housing and other related activities.

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits discrimination
in credit transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age (provided the applicant has the capacity to contract), because all or a part of the applicant's income is derived from a public assistance program, or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin and religion in places of public accommodation, which are defined to include hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, and places of entertainment.

Title III prohibits the denial of equal protection rights in public facilities.

Section 2 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) prohibits local governments from significantly burdening the exercise of religion or discriminating against religious institutions in their land use and zoning decisions.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and civil protections in areas such as housing and credit for military personnel while they are on active duty.

Agency - Department of Justice

The Department of Justice enforces the law and defends the interest of the United States, ensuring public safety against threats foreign and domestic; providing Federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful pursuits; and ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.



Program Accomplishments

The Housing and Civil Enforcement Section's enforcement efforts continue to achieve significant accomplishments. In fiscal year 2007, the Section filed a total of 19 pattern or practice complaints and successfully resolved 24 pattern or practice cases. The Section continues its consistent efforts to enforce the accessibility provisions of the Act in conjunction with the President's New Freedom Initiative.loans; successful resolution of the Department's second case involving a violation of the land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA); and the filing of the Department's third and fourth new cases under RLUIPA challenging land use or zoning decisions by local governments that discriminate against houses of worship.

Uses and Use Restrictions

The Fair Housing Act, which is found in Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, is designed to ensure freedom from discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing, and other related activities.

The Act provides two major avenues of enforcement by the Department.

First, the Attorney General has independent authority to bring civil actions in Federal courts whenever he/she has reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or when he/she has reasonable cause to believe any group has been denied such rights in a case of general public importance.

Under its pattern or practice authority, the Department may seek appropriate injunctive relief, actual and punitive damages for any persons injured by the discrimination, and civil penalties of up to $55,000 against a defendant for the first violation and up to $110,000 for subsequent violations of the Act.

Second, the Department also has authority to seek relief on behalf of individuals in certain circumstances, as follows.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is required to investigate and conciliate any complaint of housing discrimination filed with that agency.

If it cannot be conciliated, HUD is authorized to file an administrative charge if it determines there is reasonable cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated.

At that point, either party may elect to have such charge heard in Federal court, and if such election is made, the Department of Justice brings suit in Federal court on behalf of the complainant and may seek actual and punitive damages in such an action.

Aside from enforcement by the Federal government, private suits alleging illegal discrimination may be filed in the appropriate Federal or State court within two years of alleged discrimination.

The ECOA, as amended, is designed to prohibit certain types of discrimination in all aspects of credit transactions.

Persons who believe that they are victims of such discrimination may file complaints with one of the appropriate Federal regulatory agencies or may bring the information to the attention of the Attorney General.

The Department of Justice is authorized to institute litigation in Federal court when a matter is referred to the Attorney General by an agency responsible for administrative enforcement of the Act or when he/she has reasonable cause to believe that one or more creditors are engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of the Act.

The Act gives the United States authority to seek actual and punitive damages for any persons aggrieved by the discrimination.

In addition, an aggrieved person may institute suit in a Federal court pursuant to the ECOA.

Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is designed to prohibit discrimination in certain kinds of public accommodations.

It gives the Attorney General authority to bring a legal action when he/she determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that any person or group is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination which violates the provisions of Title II.

Remedies available in such cases are limited to injunctive relief and the Department does not have authority to seek monetary relief.

Private individuals also may bring legal action under Title II.

In addition, there are other civil rights laws which give such individuals authority to take legal action against public accommodations not covered by Title II.

Title III allows the Attorney General to file a civil action in federal district court after receiving a written complaint from an individual who alleges the denial of equal protection rights in a public facility, but is unable to initiate or maintain an independent action.

42 U.S.C.

2000b(a).

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act passed in September, 2000 prohibits State and local governmentsfromusingtheir authority to burden the exercise of religion, exclude religious assemblies from their jurisdictions, or discriminate against religious institutions.

It gives the Attorney General the authority to seek injunctive or declaratory relief for violations of the Act.

Private individuals may also bring actions under the statute.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 provides for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and civil protections in areas such as housing and credit for military personnel while they are on active duty.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

All persons.

Beneficiary Eligibility

All persons.

Credentials/Documentation

Not applicable.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

None.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.

12372.

Application Procedures

Contact the headquarters office listed below.

Award Procedures

Not applicable.

Deadlines

There is no deadline for the filing of pattern or practices cases seeking injunctive relief with respect to housing or lending discrimination under the Fair Housing Act or public accommodations. However, any individual filing a complaint with HUD pursuant to the enforcement scheme discussed in part 070, must file the complaint with HUD within 1 year of the occurrence or termination of an alleged discriminatory housing practice. Under the ECOA, any legal action must be taken within 2 years of the discriminatory occurrence.

Authorization

Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, Title II and Title III; Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended, Title VIII, Public Law 90-284, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Public Law 100-430, 42 U.S.C. 3601; Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, Public Law 93-495; Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1976, Public Law 94-239; 15 U.S.C. 1691; Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, Public Law 106-274, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc.; Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003, Public Law 108-189, 50 U.S.C App. 501.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Not applicable.

Appeals

Not applicable.

Renewals

Not applicable.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

Not applicable.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Not applicable.

Post Assistance Requirements

Reports

Not applicable.

Audits

Not applicable.

Records

Not applicable.

Financial Information

Account Identification

15-0128-0-1-752.

Obigations

(Salaries and Expenses) FY 07 est $14,168,000; FY 08 est $14,287,000; and FY 09 est $15,022,000.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

Not applicable.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

None.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

None.

Headquarters Office

Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, Washington, DC 20530. Telephone: (202) 514-4713. Contact: Office of Public Affairs, Department of Justice. Telephone: (Voice) (202) 514-2007; (TDD) (202) 514-1888.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

None.



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