We have seen this all too often recently. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced another six figure settlement (this time for an even $100,000) resolving a familial status Fair Housing Act (FHA) complaint. The lawsuit, filed back in 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin alleged that the owners and operators of a mobile home park had excluded families with children from significant portions of the 230 lot mobile home park.
The investigation started when a single mother (of a two year old child) and former resident attempted to complete the sale of a mobile home in the park. It was asserted that the defendants refused to approve the application of the mother (and child) because the unit was in an area of the park in which children were not permitted. After conducting an investigation, HUD found reason to believe the FHA had been violated and referred the case to the DOJ.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants agreed to pay $45,000 (cash and rent credits) to the individuals who filed the complaint, $45,000 to other persons who are later identified through a claims process as well as a $10,000 civil monetary penalty. The agreement also requires the park to change its policies such that families with children can live throughout the community.
This settlement reinforces what I have written in this space many times: professional apartment leasing office staff members must not direct or steer applicants to certain units in an apartment community. Even if it is done with good intentions. Even if you believe they would be better suited to a different unit. As you go through the process of turning a prospect into a resident: always remember to let the applicant pick any available unit in which he, she, or they qualify. Or you may end up needing to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.