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HUD alleges disability, family status fair housing violations

Posted by Editor on October 26, 2018
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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced two new charges against property managers in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Ohio: Discrimination against a resident with a disability

HUD charged Heathermoor II, LLC, and Valhalla Management & Real Estate, LLC, both based in Westerville, Ohio, with discrimination for refusing the request of a resident with disabilities to have a designated parking space.

“For many individuals with disabilities, certain accommodations are necessary in order for them to fully enjoy their home,” says HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Anna María Farías. “HUD will continue to take action to ensure that housing providers recognize and meet their obligation to comply with the nation’s fair housing laws.”

HUD’s charge alleges that the owners of Heathermoor II Apartments, which is located in Weirton, West Virginia, refused to grant a designated parking space to a resident with disabilities, despite the woman providing medical documentation attesting to her need for the accommodation. As a result, the woman and her children had to move to a different complex.

“When a resident needs a designated parking space as an accommodation for her disability and providing one will not be an undue burden or fundamental alteration, a housing provider must do so,” says Paul Compton, HUD’s general counsel. “We want housing providers to know what their legal responsibilities are and to follow them. If they don’t, we will bring charges like this one.”

HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If the judge finds that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainant for harm caused by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.

Wisconsin: Discrimination against tenant based on familial status

HUD charged Chuck and Lynn Hietpas, the owners of a three-bedroom duplex in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, with discrimination for refusing to rent to a family because they have children.

“Denying rental opportunities to families simply because they have children not only robs them of the chance to obtain the housing they need, but it also violates the law,” says Farías.

The case came to HUD’s attention after the couple filed a complaint alleging that their rental application was denied because they have five children. The rental unit is large enough for the family under local codes, and three of the children would only live there part time.

HUD’s charge alleges that when the couple inquired about the status of their rental application, they were told one of the property owners was not comfortable with having five children living in the unit. The owners also allegedly told the couple they did not feel that the house would be cleaned properly and were concerned things would get damaged.

“Assuming that families with children make bad tenants is an unlawful stereotype,” says. “When a housing provider refuses to rent to a family because the family has children, the refusal violates the Fair Housing Act.”

HUD’s charge will also be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

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