Pursuing your rights

Pursuing your rights

If you believe that you have been the victim of housing discrimination, there are some steps that you can take to assert your right to fair treatment.

Write it down.
The most important thing that you can do to help yourself is to have the details about what happened written down! Create a "timeline" of what happened when you tried to rent or buy a place to live. Be sure to include the who, what, where, when, why and how, such as the date and time it happened; the name, address and phone numbers of all the people involved; along with the original (or a copy) of any ads you saw for the house, and any other paperwork you were given.

Download an intake form, fill it out, and mail it to the Center with your timeline. Be sure to include your name and a number where you can be reached during business hours so that the enforcement coordinator can contact you if he or she needs more information.

The Center may contact the person or organization you’ve complained about to get more information.

If the enforcement coordinator finds evidence of discrimination, she or he will suggest options for resolving the matter, including:

  • filing a law suit in state or federal court; or
  • filing a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the MA Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), or other local agencies; or
  • Going through an arbitration process (working out an agreement) with the owner, manager, or agent.

The Center will work to resolve the matter by working with you directly or by forwarding your case to a lawyer, HUD, or MCAD. The Center will not take action on your behalf without your consent.

Why Bother with a Complaint?
If you win your housing discrimination case, you could get:

  • The housing that you wanted;
  • Compensation for costs such as moving expenses or fees for temporary housing;
  • Payment for any emotional damages you suffered as a result of discrimination;
  • An order prohibiting future discrimination or requiring the owner/agent to sell to other people of color/families with children, etc.
  • Your lawyer’s fees paid (some attorneys will take cases with the understanding that they will only get paid if you win the case.)
  • The satisfaction of knowing that you challenged discrimination and other people may not have to go through the pain and frustration that you did.

Filing a complaint
It is important to act quickly because some of your rights are not protected if you do not act within 6 months.
Based on the facts of your case, the Center may assist you with filing a complaint in court or with one of the following agencies:

Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)

MCAD handles all discrimination complaints that have to do with state law, as well as violations of the federal Title VIII Act.

Department of Housing and Urban Development
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a federal agency that takes complaints and investigates housing discrimination that violates federal law. You can file a complaint online, on the phone, or through the mail.

1-7 (this is one of those voicemail lines, so be patient and have a pen ready!)
TDD 1-5

Boston and Cambridge
The cities of Boston and Cambridge each have Fair Housing Commissions that have the power to investigate complaints and enforce fair housing laws within their boundaries.

Boston Fair Housing Commission
Boston City Hall, One City Hall Plaza Room 966
Boston, MA 02201

Cambridge Human Rights Commission
51 Inman Street—2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139