Hmong family denied housing due to mother?s alleged language skills
WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 22, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging the owner and manager of a Minnesota property with housing discrimination for refusing to rent a home to an Asian family of Hmong descent. HUD’s charge alleges that Page Edmunds and his company, Renter’s Avenue, located in Champlin, Minnesota, refused to rent to the family, attempted to charge them to have the lease translated, made discriminatory statements to them because of their national origin, and retaliated against them for exercising their fair housing rights.
The Fair Housing Actmakes it unlawful to discriminate in the rental or sale of housing or to impose different rental terms and conditions based on national origin, race, color, religion, sex, familial status or disability.
“Refusing to lease a home to a family or imposing additional fees because of their national origin violates the Fair Housing Act,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Our charge reaffirms HUD’s commitment to taking action against housing providers that discriminate against individuals or families because they have limited English proficiency.”
HUD’s chargeis the result of a fair housing complaint that the family filed after they tried to rent a three-bedroom townhouse in Champlin that is owned by Edmunds. The family, which includes a mother, her adult son and two minors, attempted to rent the townhome in March 2014, after viewing the house in person and paying an $80 application fee. The family’s application triggered an exchange of emails with Edmunds that lasted for 10 days in which he requested that they provide their own credit information from a free on-line credit reporting service.
In one email to the adult son, Edmunds asked: “Are you willing to pay $500 for the translation?” He went on to state: “I’m not required to enter into a legal contract with a party that may later claim they didn’t understand it.”
In a subsequent email to the woman’s son, Edmunds wrote: “During your visit to the address, you prompted your mom to say something to me. She appears to know some simple phrases, but understanding lease legal terms is very unlikely.”
After the family met all of the requirements for rental, Edmunds told them that they would have to pay $500 to have the lease translated and then denied their application, stating: “I regret that the rental application has been denied. Both adults would have to sign the contract. [Your mother] appears to have limited English skills. … [T]he contract must be translated to her native language. If not, she could easily break the lease. Such translations are very costly.”
When the woman’s son challenged Edmunds’ reason for denying their application as unlawful discrimination, Edmunds threatened to report the son, who holds a real estate license, to the Minnesota department that governs real-estate licensing.
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 to the complainants for the harm caused them 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.
Persons 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 atwww.hud.gov/fairhousingor by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.