Can disparate impact claims be brought under Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act absent any evidence of intentional discrimination?
(Note: This case settled on November 13, 2013. The Supreme Court dismissed the case on November 15, 2013.)
This case asked whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under Section 804(a) of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”). That section makes it unlawful “to refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” The Township of Mount Holly argued that the plain language of the statute does not permit disparate treatment claims, whereas residents of Mount Holly Gardens argued the opposite. Further, the Township asserted that permitting disparate-impact claims raises constitutional concerns—including Equal Protection Clause and Tenth Amendment violations, but the Residents countered that no such violations result from acknowledging disparate-impact liability under the statute. This case presented the Supreme Court with the opportunity to definitively rule on whether the FHA allows for disparate-impact claims. On November 13, 2013, the parties settled, and on November 15, 2013, the Supreme Court dismissed the case.
Are disparate impact claims cognizable under the Fair Housing Act?