The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued new guidance emphasizing that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects home buyers with limited English proficiency, or LEP.

"Having a limited ability to speak English should never be a reason to be denied a home," said 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."

Regarding LEP borrowers' access to mortgage programs, the guidance specifically mentions mortgage brokers and lenders, according to Amy Glassman, a partner at the Ballard Spahr law firm in Washington D.C. HUD also clarifies its position that discrimination against people with limited English proficiency can be considered discrimination based on national origin.

"I see the LEP guidance as focusing on the nexus between the lender's responsibilities and the potential for Fair Housing Act violations. It calls attention to the issue," Glassman said in an interview. "Whether it results in increased complaints and investigations, I don't know."

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