Those of us in the fair housing world work with investigators from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), many state agencies, county commissions, and even some city entities. How does it get decided just who gets your case? How does a local county agency get a case when the complaint was only filed with HUD?

The answer is the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP). Through various agreements, HUD shares its authority to investigate housing discrimination cases with state and local government agencies that have joined the FHAP. To join the FHAP, a state, city, or county agency must demonstrate to HUD that it enforces a similar fair housing law as HUD does with the FHA. Specifically, the agency must show they operate in a jurisdiction which has similar rights, remedies, procedures, as well as opportunities for judicial review that are “substantially equivalent” to those in the FHA.

You will not be surprised to learn that HUD pays FHAP agencies for each complaint they investigate based on both the quality of the investigation and how promptly the investigation is completed. HUD also supports FHAP agencies by providing money for training and related services.

By law, fair housing complaints are to be investigated within 100 days of filing. If HUD (or the state, city, or county agency) misses the 100 day deadline, you will usually get a letter explaining why it was “impractical” to timely complete the case.

Also, as a part of the case, the investigator will attempt to “conciliate” (settle) the action. Indeed, there are times when cases are ripe for settlement and should be amicably resolved. However, just be careful if you are told that the various provisions in a written agreement are “standard” – remember that everything should be discussed and reviewed.