Housing discrimination hurts communities. Denying individuals and families the opportunity to choose where to live based on factors such as race, disability, gender identity or membership in other protected classes means unequal access to health care, educational and economic opportunities, and many other important quality of life matters. Every qualified renter has the right to be fairly considered for tenancy and not denied opportunity because of an illegal discriminatory reason.

Suffolk Law's Housing Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP) is proud to be funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to work in partnership with the Boston Fair Housing Commission to eliminate housing discrimination in the Boston metro area through testing, enforcement and education. The HDTP is:

  • studying trends in discrimination, 
  • providing important evidence where individuals suspect they have been victims of discrimination, 
  • identifying discriminators and referring cases for enforcement, 
  • educating the community about their rights and responsibilities in the rental housing market, and 
  • educating the next generation of civil rights lawyers.

Volunteer as a Tester

The HDTP is seeking individuals who are willing to serve as housing discrimination testers. Testers are independent contractors who assume a role and, without intent to rent, pose as renters for the purpose of collecting evidence of housing practices. A fair housing test usually involves a pair of testers – as similar as possible in all ways, but for the actual or representation of membership in a protected class who contact a housing provider and gather evidence as to how they are treated during the rental process.

Testers are required to follow proper procedures in order to remain objective and impartial. Testers are required to complete all test forms in a timely manner. There is no guarantee as to how often a tester will have the opportunity to participate in tests. Testers will be compensated after completion of each test.

Testers may be called as witnesses if legal action is pursued. The HDTP is supported by a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Per HUD regulations, the HDTP must perform a criminal background check prior to approving a tester’s participation in the program. Testers cannot have prior felony convictions or have been convicted of crimes of perjury or fraud. Testers cannot have an economic interest in the outcome of a test.

Seminar

The Fair Housing Act was intended to end discrimination and segregation in housing. That goal has not yet been fulfilled. This course is designed to offer the student the opportunity to explore how lawyers work collaboratively to make strategic decisions that address important social problems in the context of housing discrimination. Students will take an in-depth look at significant issues related to fair housing law, and will also focus on valuable lawyering skills including fact investigation, working with witnesses, recording experiences and critical thinking.

Suffolk has received grant funding to operate a housing discrimination testing program. Discrimination testing involves sending trained individuals into the community to pose as renters in order to collect information as to whether housing discrimination is occurring. Each student will assist in supervising at least one housing discrimination test during the course of the semester. In class, we will focus on practical skills such as strategic decision making, factual investigation, witness preparation, and recording experiences. We will discuss the various overlapping sources of fair housing law, and examine who is covered, what actions are prohibited as discriminatory, who can be sued, and who has standing to sue. We will take an in depth look at jurisdictional issues, and matters of proof in discrimination cases, using hypothetical scenarios and real life examples. Various professionals working in the housing community will speak in class and will offer their unique perspectives on issues relating to discrimination based upon their personal experiences.

This course offers an opportunity to see the law in action while making a difference in our community. It will be offered Spring 2014.

Resources

Massachusetts Lead Incentives (pdf)

Lingering Lead: Strategies for eliminating familial status discrimination due to lead paint (pdf)