Ensuring equal access to housing for everyone is a fundamental principle of fair housing laws. However, this can be challenging for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP), who may face language barriers when seeking housing or interacting with housing providers. In this article, we’ll explore the fair housing implications of providing translation services and why it’s important for housing providers to ensure that LEP individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.
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In the second part of our series on translation services, we focus on limited English proficiency or LEP and share a scenario where an individual whose first language is not English has come into a leasing office looking for information. Unfortunately, neither agent knew how to properly manage this situation. How would you or your team handle this? What are you required to do by law, and what are the fair housing implications? Check out the answers to these common questions.
Was this agent required to provide a translator for this prospect who doesn’t speak English?
Not necessarily, but what he ended up doing or not doing was ultimately a problem. While he’s not necessarily required by law to automatically provide a translator, he is required by law to attempt to communicate with this person in some effective way.
There is a variety of ways to effectively communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English without needing a professional translator to come onto the property. The agent could have offered to try to communicate via one of the many different translation apps that are available, or he could have used a telephone translation service instead.
Can you ask the prospect to bring someone with them who can translate?
While this may seem like the simplest solution, be aware that you cannot require someone to bring a friend or a family member with them to provide translation services. If they choose to and want to do that voluntarily, that would be wonderful, but you can not force them. The burden is on you as the housing provider to provide a way to communicate effectively with this individual.
My property is conventional – no federal funds. Does this still apply to me?
Federally funded properties have a specific law, Title VI, that requires them to provide effective communication alternatives to people who do not speak English or are not English proficient. But keep in mind that the Fair Housing Act also protects people on the basis of national origin. A failure to try to communicate with people who speak other languages can be considered national origin discrimination. And because the Fair Housing Act applies to every property, no matter what type of funding you have, you would need to find an alternative method to communicate with any individual who has limited English proficiency.
In conclusion, providing translation services for individuals with limited English proficiency is not only a legal obligation for housing providers under the Fair Housing Act, but it’s also a moral imperative to ensure that everyone has equal access to housing opportunities.
By providing language assistance, housing providers can help eliminate language barriers and promote a more inclusive and diverse community. As such, it’s important for housing providers to recognize the fair housing implications and ensure that every staff member has access to the education and training needed to maintain compliance.
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