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A property management company based in Virginia Beach, VA, will pay $82,500 to settle allegations that it refused to allow a Hispanic woman to apply for an apartment because she did not speak fluent English.

The company allegedly had a policy of not renting to persons with limited English proficiency.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the rental of housing on the basis of national origin. Denying housing because a person does not speak English well violates the Fair Housing Act, said John Trasvia, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

The case came to HUDs attention when a Hispanic woman filed a complaint alleging that the property management company, which manages over 500 rental units throughout Virginia Beach and Norfolk, refused to provide her a rental application because she could not speak English well. The complaint further alleges that the leasing agent refused the translation assistance of the bilingual person the applicant brought with her.

HUD launched an investigation to determine whether the alleged discrimination was systemic. In the course of the investigation, HUD discovered that the company had a written policy expressly requiring all prospective tenants to be able to communicate with management staff in English without assistance from others, and to complete rental applications only while they were in the management office.

By agreement, the company will pay the prospective tenant $7,500, and will donate $25,000 each to local housing advocates. In addition, the company agreed to adopt a non-discrimination policy, which it will distribute to current residents and prospective tenants; adopt a plan to more effectively serve residents and prospective tenants with limited English proficiency by providing translation and interpretation services; and require its employees to undergo fair housing training.

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