It’s known as “LEP” or “limited English proficiency, and has been an issue that directly affects legally binding agreements including home loans for as long as there have been such arrangements made in the United States. But now, LEP is being addressed directly through guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as described in a recent press release on the HUD official site.
“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today issued ‘Limited English Proficiency’ (LEP) guidance that addresses how the Fair Housing Act would apply to claims of housing discrimination brought by people because they do not speak, read, or write English proficiently. More than 25 million people in the United States do not communicate proficiently in English.”
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for, according to the press release, “both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect.”
The press release notes that house hunters and home loan applicants with limited English skills are not a “protected class” in the Fair Housing Act, but that Fair Housing laws are definitely linked with protections for those with limited English skills.
“Housing providers are therefore prohibited from using limited English proficiency selectively or as an excuse for intentional housing discrimination” according to HUDNo.16-135, adding that Fair Housing laws forbid landlords and property owners from using an applicant or tenant’s limited English as the basis for discriminatory behavior.
Having a limited ability to speak English should never be a reason to be denied a home, said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity who was quoted in the press release. He adds, Every family that calls this nation home has the same rights when it comes to renting or buying a home, regardless of where they come from or language they speak.
What kinds of discrimination are possible-and illegal-under Fair Housing guidance from HUD? According to the FHA/HUD official site, that discrimination can include, “…applying a language-related requirement to people of certain races or nationalities; posting advertisements that contain blanket statements, such as ‘all tenants must speak English;’ or immediately turning away applicants who are not fluent in English. Targeting racial or national origin groups for scams related to housing also constitutes intentional discrimination”
But that’s not all, according to HUDNo.16-135. Violations of the Fair Housing Act also happen when, “the providers policies or practices have an unjustified discriminatory effect, even when the provider had not intended to discriminate. Determining whether a practice has a discriminatory effect involves a three-step legal evaluation of the statistical evidence of a discriminatory effect; whether the housing providers policy or practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest; and, if so, whether there is a less discriminatory alternative policy or practice.”
HUD’s guidance for LEP includes an explanation of how the Fair Housing Act would apply to claims of housing discrimination brought by people because they do not speak, read, or write English proficiently. The text of the guidance is available in a downloadable .PDF available on the HUD official site. Fair Housing Act laws apply to a wide variety of housing issues including rentals and mortgage loans.