Definition and Description of Testing

Mr. George Schermer has provided the most commonly accepted description of testing in the "Guide to Fair Housing Law Enforcement" published by the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing:

"Testing may be described as a way of measuring differences in the quality, content, and quantity of information and service given to customers by real estate firms and rental property managers, attributable to a difference in race (or national origin, religion or sex -- whatever variable is being tested). Teams of persons as similar as possible in all characteristics except as to race, pose as homeseekers. The team members visit the same real estate agency or apartment building at closely spaced intervals to apply for the same type of accommodation. Each tester records the responses and treatment received in accordance with a prescribed form. Those two reports are then compared."

Numerous court decisions, including decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, have affirmed the right to enter the testimony of testers as evidence in housing discrimination court cases. Done carefully, with objectivity and accuracy, testing can be one of the most important components in the evidence gathering process.

Testing is normally conducted for one of two particular purposes:

  1. INVESTIGATIVE TESTS - To collect evidence in connection with a complaint filed by an aggrieved party.
  2. SURVEY TESTS - To collect evidence in situations where there is no specific complaint or aggrieved party, but where information about sales, rental, lending or appraising practices is desired.

Testing may be done over the phone, through written communications or by personal, site-visits to a test site. Testing may be conducted by one "tester" whose experience is compared to that of a complainant; by two testers, in close sequence with each other; or by a three tester "sandwich" team (e.g., White/Black/White). Series of tests, at carefully selected targets, have often been used to demonstrate a "pattern and practice" of differential treatment by one or more of the targets.

For more information about testing, or to volunteer to become a trained tester, please contact the Fair Housing Center - (313) 963-1274.

11/11/2013

Qualifications for Testers

Testing may be described as a way of measuring differences in the quality, content, and quantity of information and service given to customers by real estate  firms and rental property managers, attributable to a difference in race (or national origin, religion or sex -- whatever variable is being tested). Teams of persons as similar as possible in all characteristics except as to race, pose as homeseekers. The team members visit the same real estate agency or apartment building at closely spaced intervals to apply for the same type of accommodation. Each tester records the responses and treatment received in accordance with a prescribed form. Those two reports are then compared.