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.



Qualifications for Testers 

The following are some of the key points to consider when recruiting and selecting individuals to serve as "testers" in fair housing investigations or when deciding whether or not to become a fair housing "tester": 

1. Testers of both sexes are needed in all sizes, shapes, colors and ages. In many communities most complaints involve allegations of racial discrimination against Black homeseekers between the ages of 24 - 45, so a number of Black/White test teams in that age bracket are very useful.  But often there is also a need for Hispanic, Arab, Jewish, Asian, Catholic, handicapped or other types of testers. And, for many tests, the comparison tester is a White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant, so there is need for a good supply of those testers as well.

2. Testers are actors and need to be able to feel comfortable playing the role of a homeseeker.

3. Testers need to be flexible, able to adjust to changing situations and still perform their assigned role as a homeseeker.

4. Testers are trained in testing procedures by experienced fair housing tester trainers, and follow specific tester assignments for each test.

5. Testers need to be objective observers of events. Testers do not try to "find" discrimination. Testers merely pose as homeseekers and are needed to make accurate observations of what transpires during their test.

6. Testers must be accurate recorders of events. Testers will be expected to make an accurate and complete written record of their test on a Test Report Form. Testers need to be able to write legibly and coherently.

7. Testers must be chosen who will make credible witnesses in court. Preference will be given to those individuals whose past background, current standing in the community and ability to convey a message of truthfulness and competence, will be recognized and respected by members of a jury.

8. Testers must be reliable individuals who can be counted on to complete their agreed upon assignments at the proper time and in the proper manner. Each tester is part of a "test team." A breakdown by one member of the team could invalidate the test.

9. Testers must be willing to maintain strict confidentiality about their roles as a tester. Normally, only your spouse/companion/immediate family need to know you are or are planning to become a "tester."

10. Testers must be available to serve as witnesses in administrative hearings, depositions or court trials.

11. Most testers are "volunteers" with many other job, family or volunteer responsibilities. Some testers may do as many as 2 or 3 tests per week, while others may do as few as 2 or 3 per year.

12. Testers must keep the Test Coordinator informed of any changes in address, phone number, employment or family status.

11/30/2007, 5/16/2013, 11/11/2013