Section 24-8-12

Filing of complaint; investigation and notice; resolution by informal methods; filing of answer; local fair housing law; conciliation agreement; completion of investigation; final administrative disposition; burden of proof; termination of efforts to obtain voluntary compliance.

(a) A person who claims to have been injured by a discriminatory housing practice, or who believes that he or she may be injured by a discriminatory housing practice that is about to occur, may file a complaint with the office. Complaints shall be in writing and shall contain information and be in a form required by the office. Upon receipt of a complaint, the office shall serve notice upon the aggrieved person of the time limits and choices of forums provided under this chapter and shall furnish a copy of the complaint to the person who allegedly committed the discriminatory housing practice or is about to commit the alleged discriminatory housing practice and serve notice of the procedural rights and obligations under the law. Within 30 days after receiving a complaint, or within 30 days after the expiration of any period of reference under subsection (c), the office shall investigate the complaint and give notice in writing to the person aggrieved whether it intends to resolve it. If the office decides to resolve the complaint, it shall proceed to try to eliminate or correct the alleged discriminatory housing practice by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion. If practicable, conciliation meetings must be held in the cities or other localities where the discriminatory housing practices allegedly occurred. Nothing said or done in the course of the informal endeavors may be made public or used as evidence in a subsequent proceeding under this chapter without the written consent of the persons concerned. An employee of the office who makes public any information in violation of this provision is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars ($200), or imprisoned for not more than 30 days.

(b) A complaint under subsection (a) must be filed within 180 days after the alleged discriminatory housing practice occurred. The complaint must be in writing and shall state the facts upon which the allegations of a discriminatory housing practice are based. A complaint may be reasonably and fairly amended at any time. A respondent may file an answer to the complaint against him or her, not later than 10 days after receipt of notice, and may be amended reasonably and fairly by the respondent at any time. Both complaint and answer must be verified.

(c) Wherever a local fair housing law has been certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as substantially equivalent, the office shall notify the appropriate local agency of any complaint filed under this chapter which appears to constitute a violation of the local fair housing law, and the office shall take no further action with respect to the complaint if the local law enforcement official, within 30 days from the date the alleged offense was brought to his or her attention, has commenced proceedings in the matter. In no event may the office take further action unless it certifies that in its judgment, under the circumstances of the particular case, the protection of the rights of the parties or the interest of justice require the action. Complaints referred to the office by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may not be referred by the office to a local agency.

(d) Any conciliation agreement arising out of conciliation efforts by the office must be an agreement between the respondent and the complainant and is subject to the approval of the office. Each conciliation agreement must be made public unless the complainant and respondent otherwise agree and the office determines that disclosure is not required to further the purposes of this chapter.

(e) The investigation must be completed in no more than 100 days after receipt of the complaint. If the office is unable to complete the investigation within 100 days, it shall notify the complainant and respondent in writing of the reasons for not doing so.

(f) The office shall make final administrative disposition of a complaint within one year of the date of receipt of a complaint unless it is impractical to do so. If the office is unable to do so, it shall notify the complainant and respondent, in writing, of the reasons for not doing so.

(g) In any proceeding brought pursuant to this section, the burden of proof is on the complainant.

(h) Whenever an action filed by an individual in court pursuant to this section or Section 24-8-14 comes to trial, the office shall terminate all efforts to obtain voluntary compliance.

(Acts 1991, No. 91-659, p. 1248, §12; Acts 1995, No. 95-676, p. 1472, §1.)