What Is Fair Housing Testing?

Fair Housing testing is Project Sentinel’s primary method for determining whether housing discrimination has occurred. Trained community members are assigned a profile, which includes a variety of information about themselves and their household, some of which they may be asked to explicitly reveal. They are then directed to contact a housing provider either via phone or e-mail, and sometimes in person. During these conversations, testers pose as prospective renters, and will ask a series of questions. Fair Housing testers will then immediately write a report that objectively details their interaction with the housing provider.

Ordinarily, at least two testers are assigned to contact the same housing provider. We use testing to objectively determine whether housing discrimination has occurred. For instance, we can learn that the tester who disclosed that she has children was quoted a higher rental amount than a tester who stated that her household is childfree. Fair Housing testing helps us identify different treatment based on a protected characteristics, as well as the presence of discriminatory policies. It is essential to our work.

We also often use testers as surveyors. Surveyors are provided with a list of questions and are asked to go door-to-door at an assigned complex. This allows us to analyze how current tenants are being treated based on a particular characteristic, such as whether a housing provider only makes repairs for a specific racial group. In most circumstances, California law explicitly allows Fair Housing testers to conduct surveys. We will prepare you to handle situations wherein you are approached by property staff, and will never ask you to survey a site or remain at a property if you feel unsafe. Surveys are always conducted during daylight hours.

Is Fair Housing Testing Legal?

Yes. In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court first endorsed the concept of testing as a valid way to uncover housing discrimination. Since then, courts across the country have endorsed testing as a valuable and effective tool. Fair Housing agencies across the country, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, have routinely engaged in Fair Housing testing ever since.

Who Can Be a Tester?

Project Sentinel is always actively recruiting a diverse group of testers who mirror our local communities, and welcome everyone regardless of race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status. We encourage people with fluency in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Hindi, Hmong, Farsi, and Russian to be testers, as we frequently survey properties where many tenants speak these languages. We also welcome people with accents.

Our grant with the Department of Housing and Urban Development does not allow us to use testers with felony convictions, or those who have convicted of any crime involving fraud or perjury. We are required to conduct background checks.

Testers should be articulate, able to think on their feet, follow directions and be reliable. We require testing reports to be written within 24 hours of a test, and a failure to do so can compromise the evidence.

Fair Housing testers are used on an on-call basis, and use depends on the types of cases we are currently investigating. We understand that testers are not always available, and will not penalize you if you need to turn down a test due to a prior commitment.

Do Fair Housing Testers Get Paid?

Yes. Project Sentinel provides a small stipend and mileage depending on the type of test or survey.

Sign Up to Be a Fair Housing Tester!

If you’re interested in attending an upcoming tester training, or want to learn more about testing, contact Christina Nguyen at (408) 470-3745 or cnguyen@housing.org. Tester trainings are regularly scheduled in locations throughout our service area.

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For further information email: info@housing.org or call 408-720-9888.