Two weeks ago it was the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announcing the large settlement of a housing discrimination case. Last week, it was the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issuing a press release in which it confirmed an agreement with a Virginia property owner resolving allegations of housing discrimination raised on behalf of residents with disabilities in two of the company’s rental properties. The agreement mandated that the property owners pay $167,500 in damages.
The case came to HUD’s attention when two residents and a local fair housing group filed complaints asserting that management required residents who used motorized wheelchairs or scooters to pay a $1,500 security deposit, acquire a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance, and sign an agreement providing that approval of the scooters could be withdrawn if payments to maintain the required insurance policies were not made. Guidance from both DOJ and HUD make clear that the Fair Housing Act prohibits requiring individuals with disabilities to pay additional security deposits or to buy liability insurance because they use motorized wheelchairs. In addition, HUD’s investigation concluded that the policies (requiring both additional security deposits and buying extra liability insurance) were also applied to other properties and to other residents.
In addition to appropriate fair housing training and permanent changes to its policies going forward, the property owner agreed to pay a total of $107,500 to the complainants and other aggrieved individuals. Furthermore, the property owner will donate $30,000 to the local fair housing group involved with the case in support of “advocacy” for people with disabilities as well as donate an additional $30,000 to a different Virginia agency (approved by HUD) that promotes education and assistance to individuals with disabilities.
Now, I was not involved with this case and as loyal Fair Housing Defense blog readers understand, I know there are two sides to every case. And I always wait to hear the other side before making a judgment concerning what may (or may not) have taken place. That being said, professional apartment management needs to know that we cannot charge our disabled residents additional security deposits or require extra liability insurance. If you do, you will really need to talk to a lawyer like me.
Just a Thought.