NFHA and its member organizations have long used testers to investigate Fair Housing Act violations.
Washington, D.C. – RealEstateRama – The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), 50 of its operating members, and three fair housing testers filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Acheson Hotels v. Laufer, a case that will decide whether testers have standing to pursue claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Supreme Court first recognized that testers suffer harm when they are discriminated against and could bring lawsuits on their own behalf in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, a fair housing case. NFHA’s amicus brief draws upon its and its members’ experiences using testers to determine compliance with fair housing laws. It argues that the injuries suffered by testers recognized in the Havens case continue to allow testers to bring lawsuits today and is consistent with more recent Supreme Court standing law. The amicus brief provides examples of cases in which the factfinders who have heard directly from testers have awarded them damages for their injuries. The brief also rebuts the argument that permitting testers to bring lawsuits would impede the Executive Branch’s enforcement authority.
“Testing continues to be an essential tool used by NFHA and its members to investigate compliance with fair housing laws” said Morgan Williams, NFHA’s General Counsel. “Any decision cutting back on the ability of testers to bring lawsuits on their own behalf could undermine efforts to address discrimination and segregation in our neighborhoods.”
Plaintiff Deborah Laufer is a person with disabilities who visited hotel websites to investigate compliance with a specific provision of the ADA called the reservation rule. The reservation rule is an ADA regulation that requires hotels to include certain information about accessibility features in their online reservation systems. If a hotel website did not provide the information required, Ms. Laufer brought lawsuits seeking to make the hotels comply with the law. In Ms. Laufer’s case against Acheson Hotels, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Ms. Laufer and held that testers have standing to bring lawsuits when they experience discrimination. The Supreme Court agreed to decide the case. Oral argument is set for October 4, 2023.
NFHA’s amicus brief was drafted by Reed Colfax, Lila Miller, and Gemma Donofrio of Relman Colfax PLLC; Daniel Woofter of Goldstein, Russell & Woofter; and Diane Houk and Sara Luz Estela of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel.
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the country’s only national civil rights organization dedicated solely to eliminating all forms of housing and lending discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all people. As the trade association for over 170 fair housing and justice-centered organizations and individuals throughout the U.S. and its territories, NFHA works to dismantle longstanding barriers to equity and build diverse, inclusive, well-resourced communities.
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