Virginia Real Estate Board and Virginia Fair Housing Board Fact Sheet
CONCILIATION UNDER THE VIRGINIA FAIR HOUSING LAW
During the period beginning with the filing of a housing discrimination complaint and ending with the filing of a charge or a dismissal by the Virginia Real Estate Board and Virginia Fair Housing Board (“the Boards”), the Boards shall, to the extent feasible, engage in conciliation with respect to such complaint. As used in the Virginia Fair Housing law, the term “conciliation” means the attempted resolution of issues raised by a complainant, or by the investigation of such complaint, through informal negotiations involving the aggrieved person, the respondent, their respective authorized representatives and the Boards.
The Parties’ Rights
- Confidentiality: Nothing said or done during the course of conciliation negotiations can be used against a party in a subsequent administrative hearing or civil trial arising from the complaint.
- Right to Representation: All parties have the right to be represented by legal counsel, an advocate, or an organization of their choice during conciliation negotiations.
- Voluntary Nature of Conciliation: Participation in conciliation is entirely voluntary. No person may be coerced into conciliating a complaint. There is no penalty for declining to settle a complaint through conciliation. Investigators and conciliators may not bully, threaten, or intimidate any party in an effort to reach settlement.
The Role of the Conciliator – The conciliator:
- is a neutral participant seeking to facilitate an agreeable settlement;
- will inform the parties of their rights during conciliation;
- will inform the parties about the conciliation process and help formulate negotiation procedures that will further dialogue;
- must convey offers and counter-offers between the parties;
- is responsible for drafting a Conciliation Agreement incorporating both individual relief for the aggrieved person and relief intended to further the public interest in preventing future discrimination;
- will, if necessary, provide information regarding the Fair Housing Law in order to enable the parties to negotiate from an informed position;
- may describe the potential relief which could be sought or awarded for violating the Fair Housing law, but will not comment on the likelihood that those penalties would be imposed upon a particular respondent.
Effect of Conciliation Agreement on the Complaint Investigation
A Conciliation Agreement that is approved by the Boards terminates the investigation of the complaint. By entering into a Conciliation Agreement, the respondents avoid possible liability on the facts of the complaint by agreeing to provide individual relief for the aggrieved person, and appropriate public interest relief as imposed by the Boards. The aggrieved person agrees to accept the relief provided by the terms of the Conciliation Agreement, in exchange for giving up his or her potential right to pursue relief granted through a civil trial.
Nature of the Conciliation Agreement
The essential terms of the Agreement will be those negotiated and mutually agreed to by the parties including the Boards. The Agreement must also include provisions for relief to protect the public’s interest. The Boards may develop appropriate public relief provisions based upon an assessment of the total factual record available in each individual case.
Role of the Office of the Attorney General
Upon receipt and verification of information that a respondent has breached a Board approved Conciliation Agreement, the Boards may refer the matter to the Office of the Attorney General for enforcement proceedings.