April 21, 2022
Housing discrimination comes in many forms. The Fair Housing Act makes it a crime to discriminate against people at any stage in the housing process.
You cannot be denied a loan, services, or assistance due to your race, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other non-financial factor listed in the Fair Housing Act. Yet, discrimination persists, even among major corporate lenders and other industry players.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a Conciliation Agreement with Bank of America, N.A., “to resolve allegations of familial status and sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.”
Bank of America, and one of its loan officers, “allegedly refused” to approve a home loan for a couple, “until after one of the applicants returned to work from maternity leave.” The alleged violation here? Fair Housing laws make it illegal to discriminate against borrowers because of family status including being on parental or maternity leave.
“Buying a new home for your expanding family should be a joyous occasion,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the HUD press release.
McCain adds, “The nation’s fair housing laws prohibit lenders from denying home loans to families with children because a parent is on parental leave. We’re glad this matter has been conciliated in a way that hopefully addresses at least some of the family’s concerns. HUD remains committed to ensuring mortgage providers meet their fair lending obligations.”
Like so many other Fair Housing complaints, this case was brought to HUD following a formal complaint, “alleging that Bank of America, N.A., would not approve the couple’s home loan application until the wife returned to work from maternity leave, even though her employer was paying her 80% of her salary during her maternity leave” according to the HUD official site.
Sometimes the only way to prevent future abuses is for the victims of the discrimination to come forward and lodge a complaint. HUD cannot investigate what it does not know about and filing a complaint is potentially a major factor in whether or not such abuses will continue.
Under the conciliation agreement, Bank of America agrees to pay $15,000 to the couple. The lender must also use policies so that applicants on parental leave may be approved for a mortgage while still on leave. Bank of America must also offer fair lending training.
The press release on the HUD official site adds, “This conciliation agreement does not constitute an admission by Bank of America or the loan officer or evidence of a finding by HUD of a violation of the Fair Housing Act.”
Have you experienced housing discrimination? File a complaint with the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay).