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.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Single Mom Told Only a Man Can Shovel Snow

A La Crosse County, Wisconsin landlord is facing discrimination charges after telling a single female prospect she was ineligible to rent a two-bedroom modular single-family house in a cattle farm with her child because her household is missing a man.

The landlord, a woman, expressed her opinions on single women several times to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), saying she never rents to them, "especially not in the country." She insisted that a single woman can't handle the seclusion of the rural community and the snow removal during "brutal" winters, and also didn't want a tenant calling her repeatedly to plow her out or make repairs. Not renting the house to a single woman with a child at the property was "just common sense," she concluded.

In light of these statements and the landlord's subsequent rental of the property to two men, HUD issued a Charge of Discrimination based on sex and familial status. An administrative law judge is expected to hear the case.

If you've been following this blog, you may recall reading a few years ago about a similar case in Idaho, in which a property manager settled with the government after denying housing to a single mother on the insistence that a man was needed to mow the lawn. (See "Requiring Men to Mow the Lawn Doesn't Cut It," September 16, 2008.)

The lesson from these cases to housing providers is, as HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John TrasviƱa put it:
Fairness dictates, and the Fair Housing Act requires, that housing decisions not be based on outmoded stereotypes of people’s "place" in our society. HUD will enforce the law whenever a housing provider seeks to limit a woman’s housing choices because of her gender or family composition.

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