Thanks to the Arizona Attorney Generals Office, a remarkable new "Best Practice" has been developed that is unequaled, and the reason is twofold: first, the entire operation is based in the Attorney Generals Office; and second, investigators receive regular mentoring to ensure that the cases they develop are stronger and more legally viable than they would be otherwise. This Fair Housing Assistance Program, which is helping Arizona residents find justice in fair housing disputes, provides an expeditious and fair solution to fair housing law violations.
Through the use of alternate dispute resolution techniques (ADR), conflict resolution specialists provide parties with two innovative alternatives to a court battle: mediation and conciliation services. Mediators help parties with disputes by facilitating conversation about anger, feelings and mistrust. The result is efficient and fair resolution of the dispute. An attorney who is familiar with fair housing laws handles conciliation services. In this service, the parties are advised on their positions and the factors to consider if the case goes to court.
If the Attorney Generals Office finds that the fair housing complaint is valid, then a lawsuit is filed in 30 days, which is relatively quick for a legal case. Before this deadline expires, lawyers from the Attorney Generals Office try to engage all parties in conciliation with the expectation that victims of fair housing violations will reap speedier results.
Another pioneering aspect of the program is that it serves as a one-stop shop for fair housing and provides victims with protection from retaliation. A victim of housing discrimination can file a complaint with the office and be shielded from any retaliatory efforts, e.g., eviction from an apartment by a vindictive landlord. Attorneys can also intercede through the legal process to help prevent the reoccurrence of fair housing violations.
To date, the program has made remarkable achievements in the community, the legal arena and, most importantly, in the housing industry. The investigation of a mortgage companys practices, for example, resulted in a $5 million settlement to benefit low to moderate-income residents of Yuma County, Arizona who were seeking mortgages. The Attorney Generals Office has proved instrumental in providing education and outreach to citizens regarding the fair housing laws and in the creation and activities of the Arizona Fair Housing Partnership. Arizonas nearly three million residents can now find relief in the early stages of their fair housing disputes. Way to go Arizona!
Content Archived: April 20, 2011