Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it settled yet another Fair Housing Act (FHA) case, this time for a total of $95,000. In a case from Washington state, the owners/managers of three apartment buildings resolved a lawsuit claiming that the defendants refused to rent their apartments to families with children in violation of the FHA.
The federal action, filed in March 2017, asserted that in March 2014 the defendants told a woman seeking an apartment for her family (which included a one year old child) that the building was for “adults only.” The DOJ further alleged that the apartments were advertised as “adult buildings.” The case started with an administrative complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD conducted an investigation, issued a charge of discrimination, and then referred the case to DOJ.
To settle the case, the defendants agreed to pay a total of $95,000, broken up as follows: (a) $35,000 in damages to the family denied housing because of their small child; (b) $35,000 that will be used to compensate other families that were harmed by the practices of the defendants; and (c) $25,000 as a civil monetary penalty to the United States. As is common in these cases, a part of the resolution includes three years of record keeping and monitoring as well as a requirement that the defendants adopt a non-discriminatory resident selection criteria and procedures to ensure compliance with the FHA.
In today’s apartment market, unless your community is specifically designated as housing for older persons, we simply need to welcome families with children. If you use “Adults Only” in your advertising, it is a decent bet that a fair housing advocacy group will find the ad. And then you will really need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.