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.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Disabled Army Veteran Wins Battle Over Parking Space

Imagine buying a condo only to discover it doesn't come with a certain promised amenity. Now imagine that this "amenity" was something you needed each day to accommodate a disability.

A New Rochelle, New York man recently found himself in exactly this situation.

When looking to purchase his first-floor unit at the complex, the disabled Army veteran and cancer survivor claims the contractor assured him he would get the one parking space at the premises that's flat enough to accommodate his van and wheelchair lift, according to reporting from The Journal News.

But things turned ugly when another condo owner claimed the space was hers and demanded $10,000 from the man to give it up.

With the help of a disability advocacy group, the man convinced the condo board to give him the parking space as a reasonable accommodation for his disability, a requirement of both the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and county law.

The man finally moved into his condo the parking space he needed, the battle with his neighbor appearing to be over. However, the neighbor is reportedly taking the condo board to court, claiming she needed the space for her disabled mother's visits, and that she deserves $300,000 for her mental anguish.

If you were on the condo board, would you have voted to give the man the accessible space? If he hadn't been promised the space by the contractor, would that affect your decision? Does the neighbor deserve any compensation from the condo board?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Update: Owner and Manager Must Pay for Interracial Dating Policy

You may recall a December 2009 blog post about an owner and manager of an Alabama trailer home who got into fair housing trouble for protesting a white tenant's interracial dating.

After making things difficult for the tenant by disconnecting the water supply during her boyfriend's visit, the owner and manager finally ordered them to leave or "get rid of the black boyfriend." This led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue a charge of discrimination based on race and color.

A HUD administrative law judge heard the case and, as HUD announced yesterday, recently issued an order finding the owner and manager liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Under the order, the owner and manager must pay $39,165 in damages to the tenant and her boyfriend, plus a $10,000 civil penalty. The order also requires the owner and manager to undergo fair housing training before renting any more apartments and then, among other things, provide the local HUD office with copies of any advertisements or leases associated with the property along with statements identifying the reasons for any applicant rejections.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

HUD Secretary Commends Efficacy of FHIP Partnerships

In a keynote speech at the National Fair Housing Alliance 20th National Conference ("Fair Housing in a Changing Marketplace") in Washington, D.C. on Monday, June 6, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan pointed out the importance of partnerships between his agency and Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) organizations across the United States.

Mr. Donovan revealed that a new study shows that Fair Housing Act (FHA) cases brought by FHIP organizations (or "FHIPs") are seven times more likely to result in findings of discrimination. The study also found that many of the FHIP-referred cases might be too complex for victims to pursue without the partnership, and that FHIP-referred cases with evidence supporting a finding of discrimination are more likely to be processed quickly.