One question that I get asked frequently is “When is a claim under the Fair Housing Act barred?” In other words, how long does an individual have under the Fair Housing Act to make a claim before that claim is barred by the statute of limitations? Like most topics involving the Fair Housing Act, the answer depends on a few factors.
So let’s pretend that you have a resident threatening to bring a discrimination claim against you for an act that occurred last year. Are you in the clear? Well, the answer depends first on who the resident intends to file the complaint with. The deadline to file a fair housing complaint with an administrative agency (such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)) is one year from the date of the last discriminatory act. If the resident seeks to file in federal or state court, the general rule is that it’s two years after the last date of discrimination occurred—but that period is tolled for any period when HUD was investigating the claim.
Here is an example of the interplay between the two deadlines. Let’s assume that an alleged discriminatory act occurred on July 1, 2016 and the resident filed a complaint with HUD on September 1, 2016. The resident is in the clear, because he or she filed with an administrative agency within one year of the discriminatory act. Let’s further assume that the local fair housing agency investigated the matter (if a particular state’s fair housing act is substantially similar to the federal Fair Housing Act, HUD typically has the local fair housing agency conduct the investigation), and issued a determination of no discrimination on January 1, 2017 (congratulations!). The deadline for the resident/complainant to file in federal or state court is tolled for the four months that the local fair housing agency investigated the claim, making the new deadline to file November 1, 2018.
As usual, there is not one set answer; however, based on where the resident chooses to file, we are given a statute of limitations to follow.