Use Professional Translation Services in Real Estate Transactions to Avoid Housing Discrimination Lawsuits
Real estate translation services comprised of written document translations and on-site interpreting services of real estate transactions play an important role in shielding property owners from allegations of discrimination on the basis of that they speak a foreign language. Landlords and property management companies alike should be aware of the fact that it is not only illegal to discriminate against prospective tenants on the basis of their national origin, but also on the basis that they may speak a foreign language.
In United States v. Edmunds, LLC, 15-cv-2705, the U.S. filed a lawsuit against an individual and his rental company for violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”). The complaint was brought pursuant to Section 3604(a) of the FHA, which makes it unlawful: “[t]o refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” The lawsuit stemmed from a complaint that had been filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) in which the defendant was accused of discrimination on the basis of race and national origin for denying a Hmong family’s rental application.
The facts of the case are as follows. In March of 2014, Thomas Lee (“Lee”) contacted the defendant’s property management company regarding an advertisement for a three bedroom townhouse in Champlin, Minnesota. Lee and the defendant then arranged a date to tour the townhouse, and Lee brought a number of individuals along to tour the home, including his mother, his sister, his daughter, and two of his sister’s friends. During the tour, Lee expressed interest in renting the townhome, and the defendant inquired as to who would be living there. Lee informed the defendant that he, his sister, and his daughter planned to live there together.
After Lee completed the requisite rental application and paid the applicable fees, Lee and the Defendant communicated back and forth on numerous occasions in regards to obtaining credit reports for Lee and his mother. The Defendant again inquired as to who intended to live in the townhouse. Lee had some difficulty obtaining his mother’s credit report, but finally obtained her credit report from Experian which showed a credit score of 761. Lee reiterated that he, his mother, his sister, and daughter intended to live in the townhome.
The defendant subsequently denied the rental application on the basis that both Lee and his mother would need to sign the lease, and that his mother would not be able to understand the lease because she had “limited English skills.” The defendant told Lee that the contract would have to be translated into the mother’s native language, saying that “people with limited English skills can break contracts…if not translated…[and a translator costs] $500.” The defendant claimed that “he was not required to enter into a legal contract with a party that may later claim they didn’t understand it.” Lee then emailed the Defendant stating that he intended to notify HUD of defendant’s alleged discrimination based on national origin, and accused Lee of discrimination by assuming that his mother did not know how to read or write and for never offering them the opportunity to pay for a translator before rejecting their application.
After the U.S. filed a complaint against him in federal court, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. On December 6, 2016, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss on several grounds, finding that the U.S. had stated valid discrimination and retaliation claims against the defendant. The court reasoned that the defendant argued that he denied the rental application because he didn’t believe that Lee’s mother could speak or understand English due to her national origin and that the defendant had made several race-related statements regarding the Lee family, who are all of Hmong descent, during the application process. The court also found that it was reasonable to infer that the defendant had retaliated against Lee for stating that he would file a complaint with HUD based on how quickly the defendant denied Lee’s rental application.
For assistance with translating rental agreements, on-site real estate interpreting services in Hmong, Spanish, Bosnian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and other languages contact our legal translation firm. We provide document translation services in more than 100 languages.
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This language translation blog article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.
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