Testers are a powerful tool used to uncover illegal housing discrimination and hold housing industry professionals accountable. It is one of the most vital tools we use to enforce fair housing laws. Tests allow us to uncover discrimination that may be difficult to recognize and hold housing industry professionals accountable for the discrimination.
Testing is a simulated housing transaction designed to gain evidence of potential differential treatment between people of different protected classes.
To perform a test, the testers take on various roles and profiles. They gather information, much like anyone on a housing search or when seeking a loan, and observe how a housing provider treats prospective tenants, mortgage applicants or home buyers. After each test, the tester completes a detailed account of what occurred during the test and submits to HOME.
Tests can occur in the rental, sales, insurance or lending markets of a housing transaction. A tester is not trying to trick or trap a housing provider into discriminating. They are similar to restaurant critics in that they observe and record their experiences. Testers are sometimes referred to as “secret shoppers” or “auditors.”
Two testers contact the same available rental property with an interest in applying. Their profiles are very similar and both are equally qualified. The only difference is their race. The testers record their experiences with the housing provider and are later compared to determine if they were treated differently.
Who can be a tester?
People of all racial and ethnic groups, all genders, of varying ages, with and without disabilities can be valuable testers.
Must be 18 years or older.
Due to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations, realtors, leasing agents, and other housing providers are ineligible to become testers with HOME. There are other ways to support HOME’s work to ensuring equal access to housing for all people, and we are happy to connect you to the right person if you are interested.
Are tester’s compensated?
Testers are provided training and a small stipend for their time and expenses depending on the task completed. Related expenses are also reimbursed with prior approval.
What is required of testers?
Following approval of their application, testers undergo a training prior to conducting any tests.
Tests are arranged around the tester’s schedule on an as needed basis.
Testers do not need to have a private vehicle as long as they are able to get to and from needed test sites. Many tests may even be done over the phone or online without a need for transportation.
Due to the potential to be witness to a fair housing violation, testers are screened for criminal history and any conflicts of interest.
What testers have said:
“I was looking for a way to not only be involved in my community but play an active role in promoting justice and equality on a local scale. I think access to affordable, safe, and quality housing is incredibly important to all aspects of an individuals’ life, and the discrepancy of housing in Richmond – often rooted in discrimination – is a great place to start.”
Become a Tester, Make a Difference
Please use the link below to complete the form below to get started. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at tester@HOMEofVA.org or 804.354.0641.