CHICAGO — Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) Director Rocco Claps today hailed an announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of enforcement action in a case in involving a lesbian couple which was denied a mortgage. HUD reached an agreement with Bank of America (BOA) in which the lender agreed to pay $7,500 and to remind its employees that they are prohibited from discriminating against FHA-loan applicants on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
"This successful action provides a timely reminder of the important anti-discrimination work in the housing arena that HUD performs around the country and in Illinois in partnership with IDHR," Director Claps said. "IDHR and the administration of Governor Pat Quinn are strongly committed to working closely with HUD and enforcing the laws that protect against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."
The recent HUD case in Florida was the first enforcement action taken against a lender involving HUD's rule ensuring that the Department's core housing programs be open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
HUD's rule, Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity prohibits lenders from basing eligibility determinations for mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. HUD's Equal Access rule applies to all housing programs administered by HUD.
"This agreement demonstrates that HUD will vigorously enforce its Equal Access rule and pursue lenders that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status," said Helen Kanovsky, HUD's General Counsel. "By the same token, BOA should be commended for stepping up and taking immediate corrective action after HUD notified BOA of the violation."
John Trasvina, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, added: "The HUD Equal Access Rule means just what it says: one's sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status is not a legitimate basis on which to deny a mortgage. Members of the housing industry should take note of this settlement agreement. HUD will enforce its regulations to make sure its programs are truly open to all qualified families."
Under the terms of the agreement, BOA agrees to pay HUD $7,500 and to notify its residential mortgage loan originators, processors and underwriters of its Settlement Agreement with HUD. In addition, BOA will remind its employees that they are prohibited from discriminating against FHA-loan applicants on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. BOA will also update its fair lending training program to include information on HUD's rule.
Illinois has its own Fair Housing law that is substantially equivalent to federal law and works closely with HUD to enforce fair housing laws. The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) protects all Illinois residents from unlawful discrimination in both residential and commercial real estate transactions.
Unlawful housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity occurs when access to housing is denied or when people are treated differently in housing based on their LGBT status. Similar to the federal Fair Housing Act, the IHRA prohibits unlawful discrimination in the sale and rental of real property and in the terms and conditions of a real estate transaction. The law also prohibits unlawful discrimination in brokering or appraising real property, mortgage lending and in advertising. It is also illegal to coerce someone to discriminate or to intimidate someone to the extent that it interferes with their legal right to enjoy their housing.
For more information about the recent HUD enforcement action, go to: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2013/HUDNo.13-001
Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against should contact IDHR or HUD. IDHR's main office is located in the James R. Thompson Center at 100 West Randolph, 10th Floor, Chicago, 60601, with other offices located in Springfield and Marion. IDHR can be contacted by dialing (312) 814-6200 (general), (312) 814-6229 (housing inquiries), and (866)740-3953 (TTY), (800) 662-3942 (toll free), or go to the agency's website for additional information: www.illinois.gov/dhr. Anyone wishing to contact HUD can dial (800) 669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY), or log onto HUD's website: www.hud.gov/fairhousing .