Continuing a series of cases concerning familial status discrimination, earlier this week the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the settlement of yet another Fair Housing Act (FHA) case. This most recent action involved a 16 unit apartment complex in South Carolina in which the owner agreed to pay a total of $25,000 to conclude the matter.
Pursuant to the terms of the deal, the defendant agreed to pay $15,000 to two people alleged by the DOJ who had been the victims of familial status discrimination in addition to a civil penalty of $10,000 payable to the United States. Again, in our FHA world, “familial status” means families with children or who are adopting children as well as women who are pregnant.
Furthermore, the consent order prohibits the defendant from engaging in discrimination against families with children, mandates that he adopt a non-discrimination policy, and engage in FHA training.
The September 2011 complaint alleged that the defendant, through various statements to fair housing testers and ads, maintained a practice of discouraging families with children from living in the apartment community. Although some disagree with the practice, HUD (and various private agencies around the country) have fair housing tester programs in which people pose as potential renters seeking apartments and collect information received from management.
This settlement again reaffirms what I have written time and time in the Fair Housing Defense blog: professional apartment ownership/management must ensure that families with children are welcomed at our communities. We cannot discourage families from applying. We cannot steer them to certain buildings or specific floors in a building. And if you do, you may end up needing a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.