White Paper: Filing a Complaint
Filing an Administrative Complaint:
One way to address the issue of predatory lending is to file a complaint with an administrative agency. There are state and federal agencies that accept complaints from consumers who think they may be the victims of predatory lending practices. The type of relief a consumer can obtain varies from agency to agency.
Filing a complaint is a fairly straightforward process. The consumer should obtain the appropriate form from the agency and fill it out according to the instructions and return the form to the agency. Many agencies have complaint forms online. Generally, a consumer can file a complaint with a government agency without filing a court action. The consumer can also do both at the same time. Sometimes the law requires that the consumer first file with an administrative agency before beginning a court action. This is referred to as an "exhausting administrative remedies" requirement. The consumer should check with an attorney to see if they are required by law to file an administrative complaint before beginning a lawsuit. In some instances failure to exhaust administrative remedies could result in the court action being dismissed.
The consumer should contact the agency first to see if that agency is the appropriate one to take their complaint. Usually if the agency is not the correct one, that agency can direct the consumer to the appropriate agency.
Here is a list of agencies that accept complaints from consumers adversely affected by predatory lending practices.
Washington State Insurance Commission
Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division
Consumer Resource Centers
Federal Agency Enforcement Authority
A number of federal agencies share enforcement responsibility for TILA, HOEPA, ECOA, and the FHA. Determining which agency to contact depends, in part, on the type of financial institution involved.
For violations of TILA/HOEPA, the ECOA, and the FHA
For nationally charted banks:
For state-chartered banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation, but not members of the Federal Reserve System:
For federally chartered or federally-insured savings and loans:
For federally chartered credit unions:
For state member banks of the Federal Reserve System:
For TILA/HOEPA and ECOA violations involving mortgage and consumer
Federal Trade Commission
For violations of the FHA
You have one year to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file
as soon as possible. Your complaint to HUD should include:
HUD will notify you when it receives your complaint. Normally, HUD
For complaints regarding a pattern or practice of discrimination by
any kind of creditors:
Fair housing enforcement agencies can investigate charges that lending practices discriminate against the borrower because they belong to a "protected class" group. All agencies investigate complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, parental/familial status and retaliation. Some jurisdictions enforce a broader list of protected classes. For example, Seattle, King County and Tacoma also cover age and sexual orientation. Contact the appropriate agency for a complete list of its protected class coverage, as well as for information about filing deadlines. (Filing deadlines typically range from 180 to 365 days after the alleged discriminatory practice(s) occurred.)
Filing a charge at a fair housing enforcement agency begins with a call to one of the numbers listed below. A trained investigator helps you sort through the facts of your situation, and describes to you your options under the law. Once you sign a charge, all parties receive a copy, and the agency assigns an investigator. The investigator talks to the parties and the witnesses, reviews records and obtains documents to help determine whether discrimination has occurred. Enforcement agencies also can help negotiate settlements between charging parties and respondents. If an investigation shows that discrimination occurred, the enforcement agency will work out a settlement and seek to prevent a recurrence. Enforcement actions may include litigation.
The services of fair housing enforcement agencies are free. Language interpreters and other accommodations are provided on request.