WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 3, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged housing providers operating in California and New Hampshire, and reached settlement agreements with providers in Alabama and Michigan amid allegations that they discriminated against residents with disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on disability. This includes discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a home, or in services or facilities related to the housing, because of a disability. Among the acts prohibited is refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services.
“We continue to see more cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities than any other type,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “It is unacceptable that individuals with disabilities have to fight for the opportunity to live where they want, or to have reasonable accommodations extended to them so they can enjoy their dwelling. The cases we’re announcing today reflect our ongoing commitment to leveling the playing field for all Americans when it comes to housing.”
In 2013, almost 54 percent of the complaints filed with HUD (4,426) alleged housing discrimination based on disability. The two charges and two settlements announced today are:
HUD has reached a Conciliation Agreement with Chapel Creek Residential Association, Inc., of Birmingham, AL, after a married couple filed a complaint alleging that the association unreasonably delayed and/or constructively denied their request for approval of disability-related modifications needed for their home because the husband uses a wheelchair. The couple will receive $42,290 in compensation, and the homeowner association will develop reasonable accommodation/modification policies and procedures that are consistent with the Fair Housing Act.
HUD charged the owners of an apartment complex in San Francisco with discrimination for initially refusing to allow a tenant with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal. Even after the tenant presented the owners with medical documentation attesting to her need for the animal, the owners refused to grant her reasonable accommodation request. As a result of the refusal, the tenant sent the animal to live with a friend. The owners ultimately granted the tenant the accommodation, but only after the tenant was forced to live without her support animal for approximately five months, which doctors say caused psychological duress.
HUD reached a Conciliation Agreement with Huntington Management, operators of five “independent living” properties in southeast Michigan known as Oakmont Senior Communities, settling allegations that it terminated a woman from her job at one of the properties because she raised fair housing concerns about the company’s policy of monitoring the health of applicants and residents. The agreement is the first HUD enforcement action involving independent living properties in Michigan. The woman, who will receive $35,000 in compensation, worked with the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit (FHCMD), a non-profit fair housing organization that receives HUD funding, to file the complaint. Fair housing testers with FHCMD found practices that included the regular and uniform collection of medical data of applicants and current residents and “gate-keeping” practices in which residents who had to leave their units for hospital stays were not allowed to return or remain in their units once they were deemed not “independent” enough. In addition to compensating the woman, Huntington will alter its policies to no longer require residents returning from hospital stays to undergo a “gatekeeping review” or provide medical information.
HUD charged Midridge Condominium Association, the owners of a condominium complex in Londonderry, NH, and Avatar Properties, Inc., the management company for the complex, as well as five members of the condominium association and two individuals who worked for the management company with violating the Fair Housing Act when they denied a resident with disabilities’ request to be allowed to use the visitor parking space in front of his unit as a reasonable accommodation. The designated parking space that had been assigned to the resident, who has difficulty climbing stairs, was behind his building and could only be accessed via a staircase with nine steps.
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear the charged cases except in those instances in which a party to the charge elected to have the case heard in federal district court.
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 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.