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Learn About FHEO’s Process to Report and Investigate Housing Discrimination

FHEO investigates allegations, helps individuals obtain agreements to resolve allegations, and takes actions as needed to enforce the law.

FHEO begins its housing discrimination investigation process shortly after receiving an allegation. You must file your allegation within one year of the last date of the alleged discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. Other civil rights authorities allow for allegations to be filed after one year for good cause, but FHEO recommends filing as soon as possible. Generally, FHEO will either investigate the allegation or refer the allegation to another agency to investigate. Throughout the investigation, FHEO will make efforts to help the parties reach an agreement. If the allegation cannot be resolved voluntarily by an agreement, FHEO may issue findings from the investigation. If the investigation shows that the law has been violated, HUD or the Department of Justice may take legal action to enforce the law.

Depending on the type of allegation you file, FHEO may follow a different investigative process, such as referring the matter to a Fair Housing Assistance Program partner. The processes of HUD's Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) partners may vary by agency.

To learn how to report housing discrimination with HUD, please visit the Report Housing Discrimination page. Allegations can be submitted online as well as by telephone, e-mail, or mail.


Graphic of circular arrows and person Intake

When an individual reports possible discrimination, we check whether a formal allegation can be filed under one of the laws we enforce.

What to Expect:

  • FHEO may interview the individual who wishes to Report Housing Discrimination.
  • Where appropriate, FHEO will draft a formal allegation, have the individual review and sign the allegation, and notify the parties that an allegationhas been filed.
  • As part of HUD's Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP), FHEO may refer a fair housing allegation to a state or local government agency for investigation.
  • In certain circumstances, FHEO may initiate a compliance review based on the information submitted in an allegation.
Graphic of person at laptop reviewing information Investigation

After a formal allegation is filed, we investigate the allegations.

What to Expect:

  • HUD will assign one or more investigators to investigate the allegations made in the report.
  • After you submit an allegation, the investigator may ask you to provide more information. Generally, it will be helpful if you are prepared to provide:
    • A timeline of events, starting with the first contact you had with the person or entity you believe violated your rights;
    • The locations of events;
    • Any people who were present when events occurred;
    • Any other people who might have information related to your allegation; and
    • Any relevant documents.
  • HUD will provide the party against whom the allegation has been filed notice and an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
  • HUD may gather evidence in many ways, including interviewing parties and witnesses, getting documents, and inspecting properties.
  • After completing the investigation, FHEO will send you a written report of its findings.
Graphic of pen and paper Conciliation or Voluntary Compliance

At any time, the parties can resolve the allegation under terms that are satisfactory to the parties and HUD.

What to Expect:

  • Throughout the investigation, HUD will try to help the parties resolve the allegation through an agreement. Any agreement is voluntary; no party is required to accept an offer.
  • If the parties agree, HUD will prepare an agreement for signature.
  • Following a signed agreement, HUD will close the investigation and monitor compliance with the agreement.
  • Depending on the authorities that apply to the allegation, HUD may resolve the investigation through a document called a Conciliation Agreement, a Voluntary Compliance Agreement, or both.
Graphic of document and legal scales Legal Action

Where appropriate, we take actions to enforce the law.

What to Expect:

  • The government may bring a Fair Housing Act or other civil rights case based on the findings of a HUD investigation. Examples of relief sought in such cases may include compensation for victims, changes to policies and procedures, and training.
  • When the government brings a legal action, it does not charge any fees or costs to individuals who are alleging discrimination.
  • Cases before HUD Administrative Law Judges are handled by HUD's Office of General Counsel, and cases in the federal courts are handled by the U.S. Department of Justice.


Process for Allegations of Housing Discrimination


Learn more about what you can expect if a Fair Housing Act allegation is filed with HUD.


When your allegation’s investigation is complete, HUD will issue a determination as to whether or not reasonable cause exists to believe discrimination occurred. If HUD determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, HUD will issue a Determination of Reasonable Cause and a Charge of Discrimination. All complainants and respondents have twenty (20) days after receiving notice of the Charge to decide whether to have the case tried before a Federal District Court judge. If no one does so, the case is heard by a HUD Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

If neither party elects to have a federal civil trial before the 20-day Election Period expires, HUD will promptly schedule a hearing for your case before an ALJ. The ALJ hearing will be conducted in or near the locality where the discrimination allegedly occurred. During the ALJ hearing, the parties have the right to appear in person, to be represented by legal counsel, to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses and to conduct discovery of evidence. HUD attorneys will be assigned to represent you during the ALJ hearing at no cost to you; however, you may also choose to intervene in the case and retain your own attorney. At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ will issue a decision based on findings of fact and conclusions of law. If the ALJ concludes a violation of the Fair Housing Act occurred, the following relief can be ordered:

  • Compensation for your actual damages, including out-of-pocket expenses and emotional distress damages.
  • Permanent injunctive relief, such as an order not to discriminate.
  • Appropriate equitable relief, such as making housing available to you.
  • Payment of reasonable attorney's fees if you hired a private attorney.
  • Payment of a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest.

If any party elects to have a federal civil trial, HUD must refer your case to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement. The U.S. Department of Justice will file a civil lawsuit on your behalf in the U.S. District Court in the district in which the discrimination allegedly occurred. You also may choose to intervene in the case and retain your own attorney. Either party may request a jury trial, and both parties have the right to appear in person, to be represented by legal counsel, to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, and to participate in the discovery of evidence. If the Federal Court decides in your favor, a Judge or jury may order the following relief:

  • Compensation for actual damages, including out-of-pocket expenses and emotional distress damages.
  • Permanent injunctive relief, such as an order not to discriminate.
  • Appropriate equitable relief, such as making housing available to you.
  • Payment of reasonable attorney's fees if you hired a private attorney.
  • Payment of punitive damages.

If HUD finds that there is no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, HUD will dismiss your allegation with a Determination of No Reasonable Cause. HUD will notify the parties of the dismissal, and you may request a copy of the Final Investigative Report.

The Fair Housing Act provides no formal appeal process for allegations dismissed by HUD. However, if your allegation is dismissed with a Determination of No Reasonable Cause, you may submit a written request for a reconsideration review to: Director, FHEO Office of Enforcement, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street, SW, Room 5226, Washington, DC 20410-2000.

You may file a private civil lawsuit, even if you have already filed an allegation with HUD. You must file your lawsuit within two (2) years of the most recent date of alleged discriminatory action. If you have already filed an allegation with HUD, the time during which HUD was processing your allegation is not counted in the 2-year filing period. You must file your lawsuit at your own expense; however, if you cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one for you. You may not be able to file a federal private civil suit if (1) you have already signed a HUD Conciliation Agreement to resolve your HUD allegation; or (2) an Administrative Law Judge has commenced a hearing for your allegation.

If you could lose the home due to discrimination, HUD may be able to assist you during the investigation. Inform your HUD investigator as soon as possible if you believe you may lose the home due to unlawful discrimination.


Process for Allegations of Discrimination in Housing and Community Development Programs


If you file an allegation of housing discrimination that also alleges a violation of Title VI, Section 504, the ADA, or other civil rights laws FHEO enforces, some additional FHEO procedures apply.


FHEO will try to resolve your allegation through informal means, called a Voluntary Compliance Agreement. If FHEO's investigation finds there has been noncompliance with civil rights requirements, FHEO will issue a letter of findings. If FHEO determines that efforts to resolve the matter through voluntary compliance are unsuccessful, FHEO may pursue enforcement actions to obtain a just resolution.

HUD encourages the informal resolution of matters and may attempt to resolve a matter through informal means at any stage in the processing of the allegation. During the allegation process, HUD will assist the parties in resolving the allegation through informal resolution or voluntary compliance. FHEO will develop a written voluntary compliance agreement to obtain the resolution of findings of noncompliance. A Voluntary Compliance Agreement will obtain assurances from the Program to remedy any violations and ensure that the Program will not violate the rights of other persons under fair housing or civil rights authorities.

HUD will notify the parties about the results of its investigation in a Letter of Findings. The letter will include information about the facts found during the investigation and whether HUD found non-compliance with fair housing and civil rights laws.

If an allegation has been brought alleging non-compliance with Section 504, and a Letter of Findings has been issued, either party may request that the letter be reviewed within 30 days of the receipt of the letter. HUD will either sustain or modify the findings, and this will become the agency's formal determination. HUD will issue a Letter of Determination either sustaining or modifying the findings.

If a just resolution of HUD's findings of noncompliance cannot be reached through a voluntary compliance agreement, HUD can use other means to achieve compliance. Among other things, HUD can initiate an enforcement proceeding before an Administrative Law Judge or refer the matter to the Department of Justice and recommend that it bring an enforcement action in Federal Court.


Reporting Housing Discrimination >