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NAA Files Amicus Brief on Significant Fair Housing Case

Fair Housing Brief

NAA has filed an amicus brief (the process by which third parties, outside of the parties to the case, comment on issues of importance in appellate court) to advocate on behalf of rental housing providers’ interests in a legal case of national significance. In de Reyes vs. Waples Mobile Home Park Ltd., four immigrant families who resided in Waples Mobile Home Park in Virginia filed a fair housing discrimination complaint against the property owner. At issue is Waples’ policy that requires all community residents to provide their social security numbers, or otherwise show proof of legal immigration status. The plaintiffs allege Waples’ policy is discriminatory on the basis of race and/or national origin, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. In its brief, NAA agrees with the district court’s ruling to dismiss the case and affirms that rental housing providers have legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons for screening and in some cases, rejecting residents based on immigration status.

As background, the plaintiffs, who are being represented by the Legal Aid Justice Center, allege discrimination under a disparate impact theory. According to the complaint, Virginia has a significant undocumented immigrant population, comprised largely of Latinos. Given the statistical data presented in the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that Waples’ policy to require proof of citizenship or legal immigration status is discriminatory because it has a disproportionate negative impact on Latinos versus the general population in the state or in other words, has a disparate impact on members of protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.

According to the complaint:

From another perspective, comparing Virginia’s undocumented immigrant population to other population groups confirms this disparate impact. Undocumented immigrants constitute 36.4% of the Latino population but only 3.6% of the non-Latino population and 5.1% of the white population. Thus, Latinos are over ten times more likely than non-Latinos, and over seven times more likely than whites, to be adversely affected by the Policy.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the case, concluding that the plaintiffs failed to make a prima facie case of disparate impact as they failed to show the required causation between the policy and the disparate impact. The case recently made headlines in September because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling and remanded the case back to the court of origin to reconsider the case in a manner consistent with the Fourth Circuit’s opinion.

The outcome remains pending as NAA joined the defendants in requesting the Court of Appeals to rehear the case en banc.

NAA continues to monitor the case as it could set a bad legal precedent if the Fourth Circuit’s ruling stands or if it were adopted by other courts. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling would allow any apartment owner or operator to come under scrutiny and be subject to a disparate impact claim if the owner requires applicants to provide a social security number, or otherwise show documentation to prove legal immigration status, as a condition of tenancy.

To learn more about NAA’s amicus brief on this case, please see the fair housing page of the NAA website.