Who is a Limited English Proficient (LEP) individual?
Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have
a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English can be
limited English proficient, or "LEP." These individuals may be entitled
language assistance with respect to a particular type or service, benefit,
What are the relevant laws concerning language access for LEP individuals?
Federal laws particularly applicable to language access include Title VI of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Title VI regulations, prohibiting
discrimination based on national origin, and Executive Order 13166 issued in
2000. Many individual federal programs, states, and localities also have
provisions requiring language services for LEP individuals.
What is Executive Order 13166?
An Executive Order is an order given by the President to federal agencies.
The LEP Executive Order (Executive Order 13166) says that people who are LEP
should have meaningful access to federally conducted and federally funded
programs and activities.
What are recipients of federal funds and federal agencies required to do to
meet LEP requirements?
Recipients and federal agencies are required to take reasonable steps to
ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by LEP persons.
While designed to be a flexible and fact-dependent standard, the starting
point is an individualized assessment that balances the following four
1. The number or proportion of LEP persons eligible to be served or likely
to be encountered by the
program or grantee;
2. The frequency with which LEP individuals come in contact with the
3. The nature and importance of the program, activity, or service provided
by the program to
people's lives; and
4. The resources available to the grantee/recipient or agency, and costs. As
indicated above, the
intent of this guidance is to find a balance that
ensures meaningful access by LEP persons to
critical services while not
imposing undue burdens on small business, or small nonprofits.
What are examples of language assistance?
Language assistance that a recipient might provide to LEP persons includes,
but is not limited to:
Oral interpretation services;
Telephone service lines interpreter;
Written translation services;
Notices to staff and recipients of the availability of LEP services; or
Referrals to community liaisons proficient in the language of LEP persons.
Which lease is executed; the English or translated lease?
The English lease is the "official" lease. Whether or not a translated lease
is signed (for instance, as evidence that it was provided to the tenant), it
should be clearly noted, "This lease is for information purposes only. The
English lease is operative."
Are private landlords required to follow the LEP guidelines?
Landlords who only participate in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program
are not subject to Title VI. Therefore, the LEP obligations would not apply
to them. However, if landlords who participate in the HCV program also
receive other HUD financial assistance (e.g. HOME funds), they would be
subject to Title VI and it would be advisable for them to follow HUD's LEP
The LEP guidance would also apply to public housing agencies or other
administrators of HCVs are subject to Title VI, as are housing providers who
participate in the Project-Based Section 8 program.
Can a person file a housing discrimination complaint based on national
origin because the landlord did not translate notices sent to all tenants in
their native language(s)?
There is nothing to stop anyone from filing a housing discrimination
complaint. If such a complaint were investigated, any decision would be
based on the recipient's total program. Factors that would be considered in
the investigation include whether the four-factor analysis was conducted,
what the results of the analysis were, whether safe harbor for translations
was met for the specific language of concern, whether the notice is vital to
the tenant's interests, and what other interpretations and translations the
recipient is providing.
Does a person's citizenship and immigration status determine the
applicability of the Title VI LEP obligations?
United States citizenship does not determine whether a person is LEP. It is
possible for a person who is a United States citizen to be LEP. It is also
possible for a person who is not a United States citizen to be fluent in the
English language. Title VI is interpreted to apply to citizens, documented
non-citizens, and undocumented non-citizens. Some HUD programs require
recipients to document citizenship or eligible immigrant status of
beneficiaries; other programs do not. Title VI LEP obligations apply to
every beneficiary who meets the program requirements, regardless of the
beneficiary's citizenship status.
May recipients rely upon family members or friends of the LEP person as
Generally, recipients should not rely on family members, friends of the LEP
person, or other informal interpreters. In many circumstances, family
members (especially children) or friends may not be competent to provide
quality and accurate interpretations. Therefore, such language assistance
may not result in an LEP person obtaining meaningful access to the
recipients' programs and activities. However, when LEP persons choose not to
utilize the free language assistance services expressly offered to them by
the recipient but rather choose to rely upon an interpreter of their own
choosing (whether a professional interpreter, family member, or friend), LEP
persons should be permitted to do so, at their own expense. Recipients may
consult HUD LEP Guidance for more specific information on the use of family
members or friends as interpreters. While HUD guidance does not preclude use
of friends or family as interpreters in every instance, HUD recommends that
the recipient use caution when such services are provided.
Are housing providers allowed to ask individuals or families if they are
Housing providers may ask individuals or families whether they are LEP so
long as the questions are asked consistently of everyone. HUD strongly
encourages recipients to allow individuals or families to identify
themselves as LEP.
How does a person file a complaint if he/she believes a HUD recipient is not
meeting its Title VI LEP obligations?
If a person believes that a HUD federally assisted recipient is not taking
reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to LEP persons, that individual
may file a complaint with HUD's local Office of FHEO. For contact
information of the local HUD office, go to the HUD website or call the
housing discrimination toll free hotline at 800-669-9777 (voice) or
The information provided is not intended to be legal advice and was provided
by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development and the Federal
Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency.