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, September 15, 2009

Not Complying And Not Caring

If you're under investigation by the federal government for violating a law, saying that you don't care about the law isn't exactly going to exonerate you or encourage the government to see your side of things.

Recent proof of this is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's September 15, 2009 filing of a Charge of Discrimination against a Barberton, Ohio landlord for alleged violations of the FHA's ban on housing discrimination based both on sex and familial status.

The landlord's questionable act was the posting of an ad on Craigslist for a rental that "MAKES A VERY NICE APT FOR SINGLE GUY TENANT." Fair Housing Contact Service, Inc., a local agency that enforces housing discrimination laws, ultimately filed a complaint with HUD, which then had one of its Equal Opportunity Specialists (EOS) interview the landlord.

According to the Charge, when the EOS explained the provisions of the FHA to the landlord and indicated that the language in the ad may run afoul them, he stated, "I don't care about the Fair Housing Act." With a first impression like that, the landlord helped neither the EOS nor himself, as he didn't give the EOS any reason to take him seriously or give him the benefit of the doubt on the substantive issues.

As for the substantive issues, the landlord's defenses appear weak. He explained that he wrote "single" because he felt the apartment was too small for a family (with a child or children). However, the fact that he rented the apartment to a couple (and not just a "single guy tenant") makes it tough to argue that the apartment was too small to be occupied even by a family of one adult and one child. The landlord also claimed that the neighborhood was unsafe for children and that this justified his exclusion of families. If you follow his logic, however, then no children should be allowed to live anywhere in the neighborhood due to safety concerns.

In issuing its Charge, HUD concluded that "an unknown number of prospective tenants with children and/or who are female were discouraged from seeking a rental opportunity." HUD now seeks a $16,000 civil penalty plus compensatory damages against the landlord. In reviewing the facts of the case to decide a fair outcome, the Administrative Law Judge will know she's dealing not just with a landlord who made a mistake and didn't comply with the law, but with a landlord who doesn't care about that law -- and who, self-injuriously, makes sure the law's enforcers know it.


kb said...

Thanks for shring, very insightful and well written.

Yelena said...

I sympathize with this landlord. It's his apartment, therefore it should be his decision who he'd like to rent to. He could have written "great apartment for gay circus freak from russia" it shouldn't matter. What nonsense =(