When I started writing this blog, I was afraid that only my family and perhaps a couple of friends would actually read it. I remain gratified as to the number of hits Fair Housing Defense receives every month (I work for a big law firm, we track everything). However, today is my wife’s birthday (Hi Sweetie!) – let’s see if she reads this.
Continuing their efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act (FHA), last month the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a landlord in western Pennsylvania had agreed to pay $30,000 to resolve a complaint that he discriminated against families with children by refusing to permit families from renting one and two bedroom units at an apartment complex. As is so often the case, results from the use of fair housing testers were used to develop the facts which led to the filing of the complaint. In this case, it was the DOJ’s own testers who developed data showing that the defendant told applicants that children were not allowed to rent one bedroom apartments as well as refusing to inform testers about available two bedroom units until the testers informed him that no children would be living there.
Under the terms of the settlement, the defendant agreed to establish a settlement fund of $20,000 to compensate victims of the alleged discriminatory conduct and will also pay a $10,000 civil money penalty to the United States. As is common in these types of cases, the order prohibits the defendant from engaging in additional acts of discrimination, requires implementation of a non-discrimination policy (to go along with regular reporting) as well as contains a fair housing training component.
Our takeaway remains that management must train our leasing office staff to follow the law and welcome all to our properties. Remember that whether testers work for DOJ, the Department of Housing & Urban Development, or a fair housing advocacy group – know that testers are out there and are looking to bring FHA cases against owners/managers/employees. We cannot be in a situation where someone on our team makes comments that are perceived as unwelcoming (let alone discriminatory) to families with children. Even if it is done with the best of intentions (for example, if the unit is close to a busy street or up a steep flight of stairs) – that is a decision for parents, not the leasing office.
Just A Thought.