HUD Calls for Protection of Non-English Buyers

September 26, 2016

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released new guidance that emphasizes the Fair Housing Act also protects home buyers who have limited English proficiency.

"Having a limited ability to speak English should never be a reason to be denied a home," says Gustavo Velasquez, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Every family that calls this nation home has the same rights when it comes to renting or buying a home, regardless of where they come from or language they speak."

Nearly 9 percent of the population in the U.S. has limited English proficiency (known as LEP), according to HUD. About 65 percent of those LEP individuals speak Spanish; 7 percent speak Chinese; 3 percent speak Vietnamese, 2 percent speak Korean; and 2 percent speak Tagalog.

The new guidance particularly flags mortgage brokers and lenders, emphasizing they must provide borrowers with limited English proficiency access to mortgage programs. HUD says it has become alarmed over cases where lenders have denied Hispanic and other non-English speaking borrowers’ requests to get loan documents translated.

Sara Pratt, a senior counsel at Relman, Dane & Colfax, told National Mortgage News that this is the first time HUD has told mortgage lenders that LEP borrowers are covered and protected by the Fair Housing Act.

"HUD is not requiring lenders to translate loan documents," Pratt says. But lenders should not stand in LEP borrowers’ way from getting a translation on their own. Also, Pratt says lenders should allow borrowers to use an interpreter or translator before signing loan documents.

Source: “Lenders Need to Help Borrowers with Limited English Skills, HUD Says,” National Mortgage News (Sept. 19, 2016)