Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Owners Balk After Trash Talk

Most cases involving reasonable accommodations for disabilities follow a familiar formula:
  1. Resident requests accommodation
  2. Owner ignores/denies request
  3. Resident sues

But in a recent case from Puerto Rico (which, as part of the United States, is covered by the Fair Housing Act), there was a twist. The owners of a coop decided to shut down the trash room on each floor of their building and require residents to personally dispose of their trash outside. A resident with fibromyalgia, fatigue, and depression claimed that her disabilities prevented her from complying, and so the owners agreed to collect her trash. However, after collecting the resident's trash on three occasions, the owners reversed course. Not only did they stop accommodating the resident, who continued to leave trash outside her door for collection, but they issued a resolution reprimanding the resident for her behavior and ordering the resident to dispose of her trash in an indoor receptacle that was too small.

The resident filed a fair housing complaint with HUD, and four months later, the owners reversed course again. This time, they gave the resident a key to access the trash room on her floor. Problem solved, it would seem, but the damage was done. On August 5, 2008, HUD charged the owners with discrimination, finding that the resident "suffered... emotional and physical distress, embarrassment and humiliation." Among other damages, HUD's attorneys are requesting a $16,000 penalty for each violation.

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