District of Columbia Launches Fair Housing Enforcement Campaign

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[authors: Claire Ana-Perot McLamore, Michael W. Skojec]

The Office of Human Rights for the District of Columbia recently announced a new advertising campaign to educate residents about anti-discrimination laws related to housing. The campaign seeks to expand awareness and educate residents about their rights under the broad anti-discrimination laws in the District.

Director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights Gustavo F. Velasquez stated that the intent is to “increase reporting of potentially discriminatory incidents.” The director observed that the largest number of discrimination complaints relate to disability, race or source of income. He said he believes that the number of discrimination incidents is actually much higher than the number reported and his office hopes to increase the number of incidents reported and addressed.

The number of classes protected in the District is among the largest of any jurisdiction in the country. No actual or perceived discriminatory conduct may be directed at someone because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, family responsibilities, disability, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, status as a victim of an intra-family offense, or place of residence or business. In launching the campaign, Mr. Velasquez stated that many residents do not realize that they are protected under the District of Columbia law.

Lending discrimination is one area that Mr. Velasquez highlighted as having received considerable attention, but he also noted that the Office of Human Rights is working with other organizations to analyze public data that may point to evidence of lending discrimination that still needs to be addressed.

Developers, management companies and others involved in the sale and rental of housing in the District of Columbia should take note that the campaign is expected to encourage the filing of more discrimination claims. This would be a good time to evaluate fair housing training and policies currently in place to determine whether they are too focused on federal anti-discrimination law and fail to consider fully the classes of persons protected under the D.C. statute and similar laws in other state and local jurisdictions.

Ballard Spahr lawyers routinely assist clients with evaluating fair housing training and policies currently in place. If you have questions, please contact Michael W. Skojec at 410.528.5541 or skojecm@ballardspahr.com, or Claire Ana-Perot McLamore at 410.528.5516 or mclamorec@ballardspahr.com.