WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 3, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged the owners and landlords of an eight-unit apartment complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a resident with disabilities to use a wheelchair in his apartment. HUD’s charge also alleges that the Salem Family Trust and Calvin L. Salem, trustee and manager of the property, refused to return the resident’s security deposit after he was forced to move out of his apartment. Read HUD’s charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from making a rental unit unavailable because of disability, discriminating in the terms of a rental because of disability, making statements regarding a rental that indicate discrimination based on disability, or retaliating against anyone for exercising their fair housing rights.
“Wheelchair users can never feel at home if they aren’t allowed to use the very thing they depend on for mobility,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD remains committed to enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws and creating greater housing opportunities for people with disabilities.”
The case came to HUD’s attention when a resident filed a complaint alleging that Salem discriminated against people with disabilities by prohibiting the use of wheelchairs in his apartments. The resident also alleged that Salem made discriminatory statements about his disability on three separate occasions. At one point, while the man was recovering from a leg injury at a nursing facility, staff at the facility received an unsolicited letter from Salem stating that the man was not welcome back to his apartment because he was incapable of living independently and his wheelchair would damage the carpet.
Sometime later, the man was served with a notice to vacate and moved out. Salem, however, refused to return the man’s $350 security deposit and retaliated against him by providing a negative reference to a prospective landlord because the man had filed a housing discrimination complaint with HUD.
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 an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages for the 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.
In FY 2014, disability was the most common basis of complaints filed with HUD and its partner agencies, being cited as a basis for 4,606 complaints, or 54 percent of the overall total.
People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet
at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov.